Former quarries provide pastures new for local herd
Reintroduction of cattle at two former Wight Building Materials sites on the Isle of Wight
NATIVE cattle are being reintroduced at two former quarry sites on the Isle of Wight as part of a new rewilding project to create richer habitats for wildlife.
A small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle are now grazing at St George’s Down, near Newport, and from next spring Hereford-cross will arrive at Prospect Quarry, near Shalcombe. The cows will help maintain species-rich habitats by controlling the growth of more aggressive plants that would otherwise take over.
Both sites are environmentally important locations with St George’s Down designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) and Prospect Quarry a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The rewilding programme is being run by Wight Building Materials in partnership with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) and Natural England.
The introduction of native cattle provides a natural way of controlling scrub while also helping to create habitat for insects and small mammals through the way the animals use their tongues to lift tufts of grass, rather than grazing close to the ground.
Deborah Whitfield, senior nature-based solutions manager at HIWWT, said: ‘We are so pleased to see grazing returning to these sites. The native cows will help manage the scrub and create more open areas, benefiting wildlife such as wildflowers, bees, butterflies, and basking reptiles.
‘Large herbivores, such as cattle, shape and drive natural processes and are key to creating wilder areas where nature can thrive.’
Mark Larter from Natural England said: ‘Prospect Quarry is a little-known but nationally important site and supports one of the few remaining tiny fragments of limestone grassland left on the Island.
‘Natural England applauds Wight Building Materials and HIWWT for being so proactive and comprehensive in planning and organizing essential conservation management work. It certainly made our formal review and consent for the work to proceed very straightforward and we are confident that much wildlife at both sites is in safe hands.’
Steve Burton, general manager at Wight Building Materials, said: ‘Our work does not simply stop when a quarry closes; we take our responsibility of restoring and enhancing the land that we use very seriously and at these sites it means improving the ecological importance of the sites and increasing biodiversity.
‘We have established an excellent working partnership with the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and Natural England over the years and are proud to have reached this important milestone with them of introducing cattle at these former quarry sites, and we look forward to seeing the benefits that they will bring for wildlife.’
Wight Building Materials’ nature project has been funded by Aggregate Industries and delivered in partnership with the HIWWT and Natural England.