The sights – and sounds – of Scotland have come to north Cheshire this year, with the arrival of a dozen highland cattle at Lyme Park.
The initiative forms part of a major long-term conservation project for the National Trust, and these cattle will increase the diversity of grassland plants and wildlife across 1,400 acres of parkland.
Importantly, the cattle will also graze dry grass – in an effort to try to reduce the risk of fire, such as the one that broke out around two months ago, destroying 15 hectares of moorland.
Conservationists are doing all they can to protect it, as the land is home to several species of bird such as lapwing, curlew and skylarks and mammals including red deer and hares.
Chris Dunkerley, lead ranger at Lyme, said: “Cattle have been grazed at Lyme seasonally in the past through agreements with local farmers, but this is the first time that these distinctive, docile animals will be living in the park year-round.
“Unlike other breeds, they are perfectly adapted to the harsh winter conditions of the moorland area, which they will be roaming in alongside Lyme’s famous historic herd of red deer.”
The Lyme Park team will be working with a local farmer to manage the herd, or ‘fold’ as a group of highland cattle is known.
This small fold was purchased using a generous gift made by a local family in memory of a loved one.
The number of cattle is hoped to increase over the next few years via further purchases and a breeding programme in the park.
The areas that the cattle graze will maintain many of the park’s iconic open views, as well as creating areas for rare plants and ground nesting birds to thrive.
Chris added: ”These Highland cattle will graze happily on a wide range of vegetation and are one of the few breeds which can do well eating poor quality grass that has low nutritional value; like that found across the moorland here at Lyme.
“By grazing in relatively low numbers they will help to slowly improve the condition of our grasslands and increase biodiversity.
“During the winter months they will eat much of the dead grass which as we saw recently can become a serious fire hazard too.
“What comes out of the other end of the cows is also an amazing habitat in itself, dung will attract flies and beetles which in turn becomes food for birds and bats.”
Lyme Park is situated on the edge of the Peak District.
Comprising of a grand mansion, landscaped gardens and an extensive deer park, it was the home of the Legh family for more than 550 years before becoming a National Trust property in 1947.
It’s also well known to many as the setting for ‘Pemberley’ in the 1995 BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth.