21st October 2011 - updated 26th October 2011 - updated 21st March 2012

Cattle Grazing on the Stour Valley Local Nature Reserve

Stour Valley Cattle Grazing Update

A Statement from Councillor Sue Levell, Redhill and Northbourne Independent Councillor:-

Following much lobbying by residents, friends of groups, Councillors and Valley users the decision to go with option 4 has been reached, this include fields 5,6,7, field (5) rear field near Cherry tree nursery, Field (7) Brecon Close and (6) the wooded area near the roundabout.

Field (4) near the river bank has been deleted, because of continued pressure from Cllr Ron Whittaker, Anne Rey and myself, hopefully the fences will not be the visual intrusion feared, and the cattle will settle into the area without any problems.

The main and best news is the riverside will remain the open, free space it has always been and will continue to be enjoyed by many.

Thank you for your continued support and on this occasion public pressure prevailed ........... Well done!

Independent Councillor Sue Levell, Redhill and Northbourne Website

Update following Forum 20th October 2011 and Joint Forum with North Bournemouth Saturday, 22nd October 2011

Forum Chair emailed Stuart Clarke, Conservation and Countryside Manager, Bournemouth Borough Council, as follows:-

"The whole project obviously has funding to allow effective management for the next 8 years, one of the audience members raised a point about what will happen to the land status after that term ends. I would assume as with any project, the finance is for the term only and it would be difficult to obtain funding for a 'rolling' project. My concern is if there is any change of status of the land to partake in this project? More importantly, if the project ends, after 8 years, or 1 year, are there any implications as to the status of this land, factual or speculative.

I feel that, despite the concentration of the group on the interests of those with dogs, there is a much greater responsibility on the shoulders of both forums to ensure that the provision of these 'spaces' (be they partially, wholly or not enclosed) in the North Bournemouth area is appropriate for not simply all of us but also future generations. Many of our concerns in these two forums represent, at the core, an interest in how the land is managed. I would appreciate it if any reports that are circulated could take the longer term issue into consideration, even though every set of figures in circulation relates to 2026 as the extent of any planning concern, I don't think it hurts to be speculative beyond that.

Another query from a member was to the possibility of knowing more about the figures expected from a revenue generation perspective; also with relation to the existing cattle closer to our end. I'm not looking for a scrutiny into this; I just think it would give a good perspective as to the value of the project."

On 26 October 2011, Stuart Clarke responded as follows:-

Just for clarification, the grazing proposal isn’t by definition a project as this would imply an end date. We are looking to apply a long-term, sustainable option for the management of Stour Valley LNR.

As I explained at the forum, it is generally accepted that the most effective and sustainable option for managing this grassland habitat is by grazing with cattle. Through the Environmental Stewardship Scheme, that covers most of our countryside sites, we have the capital funding in place to put in the required infrastructure at Stour Valley LNR - fences and water supply. We have an annual income (based on area) for the duration of the ES scheme which ends in February 2017 which will, itself, cover general maintenance and other costs associated with the grazing management.

We also generate income from our cattle by leasing/selling to other partners in the Dorset Urban Heaths Grazing Partnership and by selling animals on for meat. In effect, with the necessary infrastructure in place, our grazing management is self-financing. This takes into account longer term maintenance issues such as the replacement of fencing.

I can assure you that there are no implications in respect of the land status, it would remain as a Local Nature Reserve, parts of which are designated Sites of Nature Conservation Interest. Remember also that the land is designated Green Belt and most of it is within the flood plain.

Please contact me if you would like any further information.

Kind regards

Stuart Clarke

Conservation and Countryside Manager, Bournemouth Borough Council

A Joint North Bournemouth and TMSTH Area Forum Meeting will be held at Pelhams Community Centre, 10 a.m. Saturday 22nd October, to discuss this matter, as there has been considerable opposition from dog walkers and leisure users of this area.

What is proposed?

It is proposed that most of the grassland in Stour Valley Local Nature Reserve will be grazed each summer and autumn with cattle, in order to improve habitat quality.

Why the change?

Currently, all of the grass is cut by machinery each year.

We intend to continue to cut some of the grass for hay but for the remainder, grazing will produce more varied vegetation height and structure. This will benefit a wider range of plants and animals. Also, the hay meadows would be grazed a while after they have been cut in order to control regrowth of coarse grasses and other competitive species. This will produce gaps in the sward where wildflower seedlings can become established.

The vision is to produce wildflower-rich meadows buzzing with insects and bounded by thick hedgerows where farmland birds can nest - habitats sadly now rare due to modern intensive agriculture.

Will the cattle grazing affect the way I can use the area?

There is no reason why grazing should prevent your current enjoyment of the site.

In fact, experience elsewhere in Bournemouth and Poole has shown that the majority of users soon grow to appreciate the extra interest that the animals bring.

Fencing and new hedges will be required to prevent the cattle wandering, but this will not restrict access by pedestrians or horse-riders, since gates will allow free passage along all existing paths and bridleways through the grazed areas. The main footpaths, including that alongside the river, will be entirely excluded from the grazed areas.

A small number of cattle (less than 10) will be on site at any one time. They will be confined to specific compartments, meaning they could easily be avoided if so desired.

For much of the year there will be no cattle present, as they will be grazing other reserves elsewhere.

Will it be safe?

Shetland cows that currently graze other busy sites such as Kinson and Turbary Commons and Canford Heath will be used. These docile cows are fully accustomed to the presence of people, dogs and horses, and have proven to coexist quite happily with these.

Who is paying for it?

Costs of new fencing, gates etc will be met from Natural England funding for nature reserves. Grazing is being reintroduced on heaths and meadows throughout the area in order to improve these special habitats, via the Dorset Urban Heaths Grazing Partnership.

For more information on Conservation Grazing generally, see: www.grazinganimalsproject.org.uk

Who do I contact?

Stuart Clarke - 01202 451637

Mark Holloway - 01202 451637

Alison Smithies/James Boyland - 01202 535140

Brian Heppenstall - 01202 420909

For more information and maps see:-

Stour Valley Nature Reserve Local Nature Reserve Management Plan PDF