A herd of cows are helping save taxpayers’ money by maintaining a nature spot near Stone.
Up to 10 rare breed Red Polls have just returned to heathland at Barlaston and Rough Close Common Local Nature Reserve.
The scheme saves Stafford Borough Council money as it removes the need to pay for machinery to get the job done which would cost the authority hundreds of pounds.
The 50-acre site is a registered common, owned and managed by the Council, and comprises of two areas of heathland. The grazing cattle, which come from a nearby farm, help maintain the lower common for around six months from April by controlling coarse vegetation and encouraging the regeneration of heather and other heathland plants.
The common, which is abundant with heather and bilberry as well as marshy grassland, was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 2000 and Red Polls, a hardy breed of cattle, were first introduced in 2008.
Norman Jones, Head of Policy and Improvement at the Borough Council, said:
“This isn’t something that has been decided on the hoof. Livestock grazing has helped to maintain the character of landscapes such as this for centuries.
“Of course, people no longer use common land like they used to so it’s really important we keep the tradition going if we don’t want to lose this beautiful heathland.”
Left unmanaged, heath becomes dominated by scrub before reverting to woodland. Heathland is now a rare habitat which is why the Council uses the cattle to help restore the site and conserve it for many species of wildlife. The work throughout the last ten years has been monitored and seen the return of plants such as the Marsh Violet and Cross-leaved heath which are uncommon in Staffordshire.
Dog owners are asked to keep their pets under control, and clean up after them, while the cattle are at the site.
More information on Barlaston and Rough Close Common, as well as other local nature reserves managed by the Council, at www.staffordbc.gov.uk/local-nature-reserves