Historic moment as cattle graze in East London park for first time in 150 years
Londoners will be in for a surprise when they see cows roaming in Wanstead Park today [17 Sept], for the first time in 150-years.
The City of London Corporation, which manages the Grade II* Park, has put carefully selected cattle from its 200-strong herd out to graze as part of a two-month trial throughout September and October.
The pilot is part of a plan to use cattle to better manage and to restore the acid-grasslands in the area for wildlife conservation, including rare plant species, insects and spiders.
A team of volunteers and staff will be closely monitoring the animals’ welfare and encouraging visitors to admire but not feed or approach the cattle.
Graeme Doshi-Smith, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Epping Forest & Commons Committee, said:
“Our grazing pilot is helping us identify better ways to protect Wanstead Park’s historic views at the same time as conserving a wide range of species and supporting an even better ecological balance at the site.
“Grazing is used as a natural way to manage grasslands and meadows across Epping Forest. As part of the programme we have prevented encroachment by scrub and more vigorous grasses in favour or rarer plants and herbs, benefitting a whole range of insects and birds.
“It is exciting to be grazing heritage cattle here in this East London park, right on the edge of our capital city.”
The City Corporation is using GPS-collar technology which helps contain the cows by emitting audio signals when they reach a virtual boundary - removing the need for obtrusive electric fences.
Wanstead Park is east London’s oldest public park and noted for its national heritage and ecological importance. The City of London Corporation became the owners of the park in 1880, but it has been open to the public since 1715 – over 300 years.
The City Corporation protects and conserves 11,000 acres of green space in London and south east England – including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath - and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile.
The City Corporation funds its green spaces with over £29 million a year. They include important wildlife habitats, heritage landscapes, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves and are protected from being built on by special legislation.
These sites, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve.
Notes to editors
The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
Background on the importance of Wanstead Park acid grassland restoration by grazing:
Epping Forest contains over 10% of the acid grassland in London. It occurs on sandy and gravelly soils and is closely related to dry heathland habitat and often found together. Both habitats are very rare and are considered Habitats of Principal Importance under Section 41 of the Natural Environment & Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act 2006).
Although acid grassland is scattered across 27 of the 32 London Boroughs it is mostly now in small fragmented and vulnerable remnants. Wanstead Park, taken together with nearby Wanstead Flats, is one of only four remaining large sites in London (which include Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath).
As well as rare plant species like Heather, Mat Grass, Heath Rush and Bird’s-foot Wanstead Park’s acid grassland supports a great diversity of insects and spiders. Butterfies abound – especially small heath, small copper and common blue. These species like the hot ground conditions in the summer and autumn and rely on a mix of tussocks, short grass, bare ground and overwintering dead stalks and leaves to complete their life cycles.
Grazing is the best management for this type of habitat to maintain this variety and prevent loss to scrub encroachment. Although such encroachment can take many decades because of the drought-prone, nutrient-poor soils it is now at a point in Wanstead Park that the core of the acid grassland could be lost. Once scrub like broom establishes it can change the soil characteristics and pull in nutrients which allow in taller, commoner grasses.
Grazing is particularly important for the park because to mow with machinery would destroy one of the main features of wildlife interest, the Yellow Meadow-anthills.
Kristina Drake| Media Officer, Public Services
City of London Corporation
D: 020 7332 1125