Highland cattle introduced to Taverham Mill meadows

A small herd of conservation grazing Highland cattle have been let out on to meadows at Taverham Mill in an attempt to restore nine hectares of meadows close to the River Wensum.

It comes as part of an ongoing partnership between Anglian Water and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

Together with lakes at the Anglian Water fishery next door, the meadows are designated as a County Wildlife Site for the range of plants, insects and other animals, such as barn owls, that they support.

Keeping the site in top condition for wildlife needs careful management and over time the grazing cattle will reduce the height and vigour of coarse plant species, and encourage a wide range of marshy plant species including ragged robin, marsh marigold, orchids and cuckoo-flower.

Grazing should also make the meadows ideal for a range of insects, which should in turn help small mammal numbers and make the site a more suitable hunting ground for barn owls, which are able to detect and catch their prey much more easily in shorter vegetation.

Norfolk Wildlife Trust conservation officer Andrina Walmsley said: 'Highland cattle are ideal for conservation grazing as they are hardy and well-adapted to wet sites like Taverham Mill, and they thrive on coarse vegetation.

'They happily eat tough plants such as sedges and thistles, which more commercial breeds find unpalatable, and help to break up mats of dead vegetation with their hooves.

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'This provides areas of bare ground where wildflower seeds can germinate and habitat niches for many invertebrate species.'

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