In cooperation with the Epsom Common Association, the Lower Mole Partnership and Natural England, the council’s countryside team are bringing back the cattle to Epsom Common as the summer annual grazing project resumes.
The grazing project helps manage and restore wood pasture (a priority habitat) on the Common.
Grazing was re-introduced in 1997 and this season there will be 12 animals in three areas from May until autumn. The project is carefully monitored by the council’s countryside team and Natural England under the guidance of the Common’s management plan.
The return of the cattle marked the end of a period starting in the early twentieth century when grazing disappeared from the Common. Without cattle, following the Second World War, the largely open treeless landscape of Epsom Common was transformed into the landscape dominated by the developing woodland, as we see today.
The progression to a single, uniform habitat of woodland has the effect of reducing biodiversity on the local nature reserve. The grazing project is part of the vision to achieve a balance between woodland, scrub, grassland, open water and the important transitions between these habitats.
Cattle grazing is a sensitive way of maintaining the grassland without causing disturbance to other wildlife. In preference to other grazers, such as sheep, cattle create a varied structure in the grassland which is beneficial to wildlife. Additionally, cattle are easier than ponies, goats or sheep to contain within temporary fencing and are far less susceptible to being frightened by dogs.
In order to ensure the welfare of the cattle, the animals are checked on a daily basis. Daily inspections are also undertaken to ensure that the electric fencing and water supply in the grazing area is in good working order and that the cattle's mineral licks are in place.