Keeping in the cows at Y Gweira

Highland Cows. Photo: Graham Watkeys

Highland Cows. Photo: Graham Watkeys

Although the sight of cattle roaming freely across Llantrisant Common isn’t anything out of the ordinary, during the summer of 2018 there were a few more beasts on the loose than there should have been!

The four seemingly docile highland cows which were lightly grazing the grassland habitat at Y Gweira Nature Reserve, located in the corner of the common, had somehow worked up the gusto to half-jump over, half-crush, the stock fencing and escape into the surrounding farmland. Not only was this an issue for our poor grazier who had to track them down and return them to the reserve, but it also meant that we lost out on grazing on the nature reserve since our cows were having their appetites filled elsewhere.

Y Gweira Nature Reserve

Y Gweira is a mosaic of wet heath, mire and marshy grassland, with plants such as Petty Whin and Devil’s bit scabious scattered about. Royal Fern, which is rare in the Eastern part of Glamorgan, grows along the wet ditches on the reserve. As with most grasslands, grazing (or a simulation of) is needed in order to maintain the balance of species, and at Y Gweira the highland cows were helping to prevent the rushes, brambles and young birch scrub from becoming too vigorous.

However, after learning that they were stronger than the fence, the highland cows escaped several times during the summer and eventually the naughty things had to be returned to the farm, meaning that Y Gweira lost out on a month of grazing.

Hard work and Helping Hands

Not wishing for a repeat of that this year myself and the valleys volunteers have been working incredibly hard to replace the fencing on the nature reserve and to make it fully cow-proof. Vehicle access is very limited due to the terrain and the delicate nature of the habitat, so almost all the tools and materials were carried across the field, and each fence post (over 200 of them!) knocked into the ground, by hand.

Thankfully there was help to be had!

Dewi John, a local farmer and freeman of Llantrisant, kindly transported a trailer load of fence posts across the common to Y Gweira with his tractor. Student volunteers from Bridgend College came twice to help with the fencing under the instruction of Lyn Evans, a lecturer in Environmental Conservation. Natural Resources Wales covered the cost of the fencing materials needed.

Without all this help we wouldn’t have been able to complete this fairly mammoth task, and wouldn’t have had much hope of being able to contain our (not-quite-so-mammoth) cows on the nature reserve. We hope to have them securely grazing Y Gweira in March.

Thanks to everybody for their efforts!

To join a volunteering work party, contact Lorna l.baggett@welshwildlife.org