Cows from the once derelict Stirley Community Farm near Huddersfield have been put to good use helping to manage a nature reserve through a conservation grazing programme.

A visit to Stirley Community Farm in winter 2009 presented a picture of crumbling, old barns long since empty and fields uncared for. Since then Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, with the help of an army of volunteers, has worked hard to attain a sustainable, low input-low output farm that works in harmony with the natural world; its original vision for the site.

The renovation of the farm has included the fixing and refurbishment of barns, which is ongoing, the digging and cultivating of vegetable beds as well as the development of a viable Beef Shorthorn herd.

130521 Stirley cows at Stocksmoor BL (1)

In recent months the cattle stock has come on so well that the Trust has been able to accomplish one of its early dreams, which is to move some of Stirley’s own cows onto local nature reserves as part of a conservation grazing management plan.

Stocksmoor Common Nature Reserve, a grassland managed by the Trust near Wakefield is the first, hopefully of many nature reserves, to be managed in this way using stock from the farm. Here the cows will help to reduce the amount of coarse vegetation and invading scrub habitat, enabling less competitive species including the finer grasses, herbs and small flowering plants to establish. This in turn encourages a greater diversity of insects, birds and small mammals.

Brian Lavelle, regional manager for West Yorkshire and manager of Stirley Community Farm said, “It is a fantastic feeling to achieve one of our original goals for the farm in a relatively short-time. Every day that passes another part of the farm is restored and we are able to see the wildlife traditionally associated with a sensitively farmed landscape creep back in, with the arrival of swallows and house martins back to the farm for the first time in years!”

Rob Stoneman, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said,
“The publication of the State of Nature report yesterday made for sober reading, with headlines including a sixty per cent decline in UK species over the last fifty years; in particular this decline was recognised amongst farmland species, with sixty-two flowering plant species on the national Red List.

“It is statistics like this that spur us on, projects like Stirley Community Farm provide us with the chance to halt this decline and prevent local extinctions. Once our meadows were multi-coloured flower-rich habitats and it is this that we hope to get back to on the Pennine Fringe.”

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