Enfield prepares for cattle

Plans to introduce grazing cattle at three Enfield parks as part of ‘rewilding’ efforts, reports James Cracknell

Red poll cattle, seen here at Forty Hall Farm, could soon be roaming around Trent Park, Whitewebbs Park and Forty Hall Estate
Red poll cattle, seen here at Forty Hall Farm, could soon be roaming around Trent Park, Whitewebbs Park and Forty Hall Estate

Grazing cows are set to be introduced at three Enfield parks.

Enfield Council has launched a public consultation on its plans to allow herds of red poll cattle to roam around parts of Trent Park, Whitewebbs Park and Forty Hall Estate.

The plan is in line with the council’s ongoing drive to “rewild” parts of the borough, following the recent planting of 100,000 trees across Enfield Chase, the introduction of beavers at Forty Hall Farm, and the installation of several wetland areas.

Grazing cattle are said to bring multiple benefits for nature, while also reducing the need for heavy machinery to be used to manage grasslands. Conservationists have begun using the animals to recreate some of the natural habitats that would have been common several thousand years ago, when large wild herbivores such as ox and bison roamed the British Isles.

Red poll cattle currently live at Forty Hall Farm, within fenced enclosures, and are looked after by staff from Capel Manor College. But the plan is to allow herds to move to different parks in the borough where they would be able to roam in public areas, albeit with restrictions on their movement.

At a ‘meet the cows’ event at Forty Hall Farm this week, the council’s senior engineer Ian Russell told the Dispatch: “The idea is you can manage the grassland landscape better [with cows] because the grass gets eaten but the wildflowers can come through, helping to attract pollinators.”

Thanks to industrial agriculture becoming widespread across Britain’s countryside over the last few hundred years, 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost, drastically reducing the natural grassland habitats which would have sustained significant insect and bird populations.

Red poll cattle – which do not have horns and are said to be “docile” – would not pose any threat as long as park visitors “did not intentionally bother them”.

The areas where the cattle would be released, if the council decided to go ahead with the conservation grazing scheme as currently proposed, are the southern part of Trent Park (28 hectares, 20 cattle), the southern portion of Whitewebbs Park (nine hectares, six cattle), and the area immediately north of the central pond at Forty Hall (15 hectares, ten cattle).

Ian explained that the animals would wear GPS collars so they could be stopped from wandering anywhere they shouldn’t go. “The collar tracks each animal and as they approach the [virtual] ‘fence’ an alarm goes off,” he said. “The staff [from Capel Manor] would get a notification if it does. And they will get checked every day by the grazing manager.”

If any cow ignores an alarm it would receive a small electric shock, similar to that provided by an electric fence, but this would be “very rare”.

Dog walkers are being advised that they should “consider the likely behaviour of their dog” and “act responsibly” by using a lead if necessary.

The cattle grazing seasons usually runs from April to November but the cows could potentially roam around Enfield’s parks all year if there is enough food for them. Otherwise, they will be taken back to Forty Hall Farm to feed on hay.

To take part in the council’s conservation grazing consultation, which continues until Sunday 10th July:
Email [email protected]
Visit letstalk.enfield.gov.uk/enfield-conservation-grazing