Cows in Holland Park

The enclosures known as the Oak enclosure and Arboretum have previously undergone management with pigs to start the process of restoring the woodland meadow areas.   This is specified as an objective in the Holland Park Woodland Management Plan: to restore and maintain meadow and grassland habitats in the Wildlife enclosure, Arboretum and Oak enclosure.

The pigs previously grazed the enclosures to reduce the bramble and nettles and clear the ground to make way for more meadow species.  The pigs were most successful in the Oak enclosure which has seen minimal bramble and nettle return. In the Arboretum the pigs were less successful.  This site had been left un-grazed for two years and there were not enough pigs to cover the ground effectively, so the nettles in this enclosure still make up a large proportion of the vegetation.

In order to continue the restoration programme of the woodland meadows cattle have been introduced to graze over the summer in both enclosures in 2013. This is seen to be an innovative and progressive approach to woodland management within London. This approach will have a minimal impact on the park's biodiversity.

We will be using English Longhorn cattle, a native breed, which are good generalist foragers and will reduce the biomass on both sites, and will encourage an increase in diversity of wildflowers in the meadows.

The use of cows will help reduce the need for chemicals and mechanical interference although an initial strim of the nettles in the Arboretum has taken place to provide easier foraging for the cows when they arrive.

It has been found that cows can be used in various woodland management situations to help with the overall management of the woodland. The cows provide an excellent natural clearing source, and can be used to manage the removal of bracken, bramble and nettles. Cows reduce the need for chemicals and mechanical interference on scarification sites. They can also help in the removal of invasive exotic weeds. Cows can easily be used to clear the ‘brash’ and undergrowth of woodland to help the regeneration of saplings, woodland pasture and small herbaceous plants.

Cow Paddocks within Holland Park

Initially the project ran in the Arboretum and is now being extended into the Oak enclosure.

Map of the pig enclosure 

(Click on the image to enlarge the map)

The Cow enclosures (paddocks) are fenced using electrified “stock fencing” which is set back from the existing chestnut fencing.  This double fencing prevents the cows from escaping into the larger woodland enclosure and also prevents interference from park users.

The woodland area has been registered with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).  RPA is an Executive Agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). RPA is a major delivery body for Defra, and has developed the Rural Land Register (RLR) which holds digital maps of all registered land parcels.

Meadow re-establishment

The aim of this project is to restore the wildflower meadow in both of these enclosures. This is necessary, as the area has become encroached with bramble and nettles. 

The success of this project will be monitored and will inform the longer term management plan for these areas.  We may introduce grazing over a number of years to improve the floral diversity of these enclosures.

The cows will not eat the much loved daffodil and bluebell bulbs. While they may turn over the bulbs in certain areas, which is likely to reduce this year’s flowers, in the long term the bulbs will benefit from the disturbance and being “chipped”. This will mean that they are likely to flower more vigorously in following seasons.

Wildflower meadows are a valued part of our countryside and are one of our fastest disappearing habitats: over 95 per cent have been lost. As a result, many of our native wildflowers are in decline and some have almost disappeared. Wildflower meadows support birds and small mammals; they are also home to many invertebrates, including butterflies, grasshoppers and bees.

About the cows

The cows we are using are British Longhorns. Longhorns are one of the oldest and larger of the native breeds of British cow. The breed was originally used as oxen to plough the land, potential was seen by pioneers such as Robert Bakewell in the 1700s and with the help of selective breeding the longhorn rose to fame as a superior beef animal.

Longhorns are renowned for their docility, strong maternal instincts and rough grazing abilities.  Where other cattle would turn up their noses the Longhorn digs in: nettles, diverse grasses, wild flowers and thistles, it eats them all, making it a fantastic grazing animal.