Scottish grazers enliven Ashford landscape

Tuesday 9th July 2013

Highland cows grazing at Ashford WarrenHighland cows at Ashford Warren © Ray Lewis

Seven hardy, Highland cows have been introduced to Ashford Warren and Hoads Wood to re-invigorate the nature reserve, which is managed by Kent Wildlife Trust and owned by Ashford Borough Council.

Parts of the Warren were once considerably more open. It would have been managed as wood pasture, with huge mature trees surrounded by open glades and clearings.

These clearings - that once supported wild flowers and insects - have now filled in with bramble, nettles and alien tree species such as sycamore and chestnut. Wood pasture is now very rare, and many of the animals and plants associated with it are under threat.

Ashford Area Warden, Ian Rickards, said: “These majestic cattle are an essential part of the process of restoring this wood pasture. The grazing will maintain open sunny glades, and encourage a whole range of rare plants and animals, which currently struggle under competition from more vigorous plants.

“The cattle have been transferred from Hothfield Heathlands where they are a familiar part of the landscape, and are used to people and dogs too. However, for the benefit of other people, wildlife and the cattle, please make sure you have your dog under control at all times.”

There is a downloadable handy guide available on the Trust’s website http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/ashford-warren-hoads-wood to help visitors when walking amongst the cattle.

Initially, the cattle will stay on site for most of July. There are still cattle-free areas for walking, as the cattle will be restricted to one side of the railway line at a time.

Kent Wildlife Trust would like to know how visitors feel about the cattle at Ashford Warren, and whether anyone would like to get involved with helping to look after the cattle. Please contact Ian Rickards on 01622 622012 or ian.rickards@kentwildlife.org.uk