PICTURES: Bluebells blooming thanks to Snowdonia cattle

Three highland cattle are helping bluebells bloom again in one Snowdonia wood.

The National Trust introduced cows Myfi, Wmffre and Hugo to Coed Ganllwyd on the charity’s Dolmelynllyn Estate in 2015. Livestock had been excluded from the woods for the past 40 years.

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A highland cow grazing at the National Trust’s Dolmelynllyn Estate. Credit: National Trust

Rhodri Wigley, National Trust ranger, said: “Before the cattle arrived it was quite overgrown. The understorey was thick with brambles.”

The hardy cattle, which spend all year on the estate’s woods, help tackle the thick bramble on the woodland floor – allowing more delicate plants like bluebells and wild garlic to break through.

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A highland cow grazing at the National Trust’s Dolmelynllyn Estate. Credit: National Trust

Rhodri said: “The heifer has two big horns which she uses to pull down branches and eat the leaves.

“The grazing makes a massive difference. You can see through the woods now. Last year we saw a lot more wild garlic in the woods – and it’s an even bigger area of garlic this year.”

Rangers regularly move the cattle between parcels of woodland on the estate. Once the cattle have cleared the brambles they hope to introduce sheep from local farmers.

Early-born lamb due April 1 leaves Cornwall farmers feeling foolish

Shepherds on Britain’s most southerly farm were left feeling foolish after their first lamb of the year was born three weeks early.

Rona and Nevil Amiss, who farm the National Trust-owned Tregullas Farm on Cornwall’s Lizard Point, had been expecting their flock to start lambing on 1 April – April Fools’ Day.

But the couple’s plans were left in tatters when the first lamb was born on the farm last Tuesday, after a ram struggled into the ewe’s field last October.

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Farmers’ daughter Elsa Amiss, 18, with the first lamb born at Tregullas Farm, Cornwall – mainland Britain’s most southerly farm. CREDIT: Ben Birchall/PA Wire. For more pictures: Press Association (A ANIMALS Lambs)

Rona Amiss, tenant farmer at Tregullas, said: “Normally lambing begins on 1 April, but like all best laid plans it often doesn’t quite work out that way.

“Back in October one lively ram escaped and walked round the cliff path to the opposite end of the farm and got in with the ewe.”

The hardy Lleyn-cross lambs at Tregullas spend most of their lives outside and are fed entirely on grass or silage.

“It’s a sustainable way of farming that suits the mild climate of the Lizard Peninsula,” Rona said.

“If we calve and lamb in April as the grass is growing at its best we can match the needs of the livestock without having to resort to bought-in expensive feeds.”

Tregullas has won two National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards for its lamb. Farmers Rona and Nevil Amiss, whose five children help out on the farm including 18-year-old daughter Elsa, have worked to improve the farm for rare wildlife such as the crow-like Cornish Chough.

Rona said: “Having a good rotation of sheep, cattle and arable around the farm means we are increasing the opportunities for wildlife to thrive. The jigsaw of habitats that this creates means a mix of food sources for our numerous birds, especially the iconic Cornish Chough.”

The National Trust acquired Tregullas Farm, which sits in the shadow of Lizard Point lighthouse, in the 1990s.

Lead ranger Justin Whitehouse added: “Tregullas is a flagship farm for the Trust, showing how farming with high conservation standards can be profitable and sustainable, producing quality local produce – and benefiting wildlife and people.”

VIDEO: Meet Gavin, the one-horned ram helping rare plants on the Great Orme farm

THREE HUNDRED sheep make their home on a wind-swept clifftop in north Wales – but a new arrival has left the headland’s rams feeling sheepish.

20-month-old Gavin was bought by Great Orme farmer Dan Jones and charity Plantlife in November to breed with his 70 Herdwick-breed sheep.

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Meet Gavin, the one-horned Herdwick ram. He belongs to Dan Jones, farmer at Parc Farm on the Great Orme in North Wales. 

Watch the full video of Gavin on the Great Orme.

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Year of strong grass growth was bad for bees and butterflies

Bee and butterfly numbers have slumped after a tenth year of unsettled weather, National Trust experts have said.

Mild winter and spring weather led to extremely high grass growth, leading to a good year for farmers with livestock and for making silage or hay. But the grass growth meant a difficult year for warmth-loving insects, including common meadowland butterflies.

The assessment comes as the National Trust marks ten years of its annual weather and wildlife review, which is aimed at understanding how changing weather patterns is affecting wildlife at its places.

Common blue butterfly

Common blue butterfly. Credit Matthew Oates/National Trust Images

The conservation charity is working with its tenants and partners to reverse the alarming decline in UK wildlife, with 56 per cent of species seeing their numbers fall in the last 50 years. Continue reading

Swimming cows make a dash for island pastures on Strangford Lough

The grass was definitely greener on the other side of the lough for a herd of cattle in County Down, when they attempted to swim back to their island grazing pastures last month.

Eight cows took to Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough after their return to the mainland from a stint grazing on Darragh Island.

Farmers have moved cattle between the islands on Strangford Lough for generations, in the pursuit of fresh grass.

And National Trust rangers regularly transport sheep and cattle between the 12 islands the conservation charity cares for on the sea lough.

Will Hawkins, National Trust ranger at Strangford Lough, said: “We had a tricky job getting them on to the barge. We left a group of cows on the mainland and we were just coming back with the others when a few of the cows decided to swim back to the boat.”

After a few seconds in the water they changed their minds and headed back to the mainland.

“The cows like being on the islands,” Will said. “Other than a couple of kayakers there’s nobody else on the islands. The cows are free to roam.”

The grazing cattle help rangers encourage wildflowers to grow on the islands.

“The way the cows graze and ‘poach’ the ground with their hooves means we get flowers like dog violet coming through.

“It’s like a sea of purple on some of the islands in the spring.”

The cattle belong to the Dines family, one of the last Strangford Lough farming families to graze their animals on islands.

PICTURES: Restoring Stonehenge’s chalk grassland in world heritage site’s 30th year

As Stonehenge celebrates 30 years as a World Heritage Site, National Trust rangers and volunteers in Wiltshire are working closely with farmers to restore the chalk grassland landscape that would have been familiar to the monument’s original builders.

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Amy Liptrot’s THE OUTRUN wins Wainwright Prize at BBC Countryfile Live

Amy Liptrot’s debut book was named winner of the prestigious award for nature writing at a special event at BBC Countryfile Live this afternoon.

The Outrun, her account of reconnecting with her native Orkney, beat five other titles to win the Wainwright Golden Beer Prize.

Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot

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