A Dorset heathland beauty spot is being restored to its former glory – thanks to a herd of cows.
Dorset County Council has introduced Galloway cattle to graze Blackdown, its 160-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) around the Hardy Monument near Dorchester.
Grazing is a traditional method of maintenance dating back to the Bronze Ages, which helped create our rare and wildlife-rich heathlands.
The Black and Belted Galloways, which have been chosen for their temperament and grazing ability, will graze on the site’s tussock grass and vegetation. By helping keep bracken under control they will allow heathland species such as bilberry, heather and gorse to thrive.
Russell Goff, senior ranger for the council, said: “Our Bronze Age ancestors would have grazed animals on the site, burned the gorse in their ovens and used the heather for bedding.
“As these traditional methods of keeping warm and cooking are no longer used, we have to intervene to stop the site reverting back to scrubby woodland, which would be detrimental to the species that live there.”
The council has been working with local farmer and grazier Martin Reynolds to make the site safe for cattle while keeping it accessible to the public.
Martin said: “I have lived and worked in the area around Blackdown for many years and I am very proud to be a part of this heathland regeneration project.”
Cllr Daryl Turner, the council’s cabinet member for natural and built environment, said: “It’s great to be bringing this traditional way of managing our historic heathland back to Blackdown.
“You can walk around the site safely while the cows are there as long as you keep dogs on a lead, treat the animals with respect and stay aware.”
Blackdown sits on the South Dorset Ridgeway, part of the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
A new car park will being created in time for next year as part of the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership Project.