Barnwood Park and Arboretum


Meet the Grazing Team

The five Dexters grazing in the Arboretum 2021

Barnwood Arboretum is a Local Nature Reserve (designated by Natural England) so the main aim in managing the site is to maintain and improve habitat for wildlife. 

When you walk through the long grass in the Arboretum in the summer you can’t help but disturb lots of insects, especially grasshoppers, butterflies and moths. If the grass were mown, like it is in the rest of the park, then these insects would not have time to get away and the ant hills (the mounds you can see in the grassland areas) of the Yellow Meadow Ants would be destroyed. In contrast cattle and sheep move around slowly and take weeks to consume the vegetation, giving insects, small mammals and amphibians time to move away and continue their life-cycle. 

Dexter cattle graze the Arboretum between July and September. They are selective in what they eat and this allows the less vigorous plants (wildflowers) to become established and reduces the more dominant ones. This increase in plant species benefits butterflies, bees, bats and birds. The cattle also leave some areas of longer vegetation and these provide shelter for insects and small mammals.

Trampling by the cattle creates areas of bare ground, which can provide opportunities for seed to germinate and are beneficial for invertebrates and amphibians. There are many frogs in the Arboretum!

The Dexter cattle in 2020

Sheep who come each year in October after the cattle have left, belong to St James's City Farm in Gloucester. Most of them are used to people and some even enjoy being stroked. The variety of sheep varies from year to year. One year Richard, from the City Farm, brought a small flock of Balwen, that looked very attractive but had a penchant for tree bark - a disaster in an arboretum! They have not returned. The Cotswolds and Jacobs have been amongst the favourite breeds. We have to wait to see who arrives each year.

The 2019 flock of sheep

Cattle and sheep produce dung and this creates habitat for many invertebrate species. Over 250 species of insects are found in or on cattle dung in the UK.

We are grateful to the owners of the cattle and sheep that graze here every year and for the important benefits that their animals bring.

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