BOG-trotting superstars Ringo, Penguin, Ginger and Oak and friends will return to Beacon Hill and Cleddon Bog in the Wye Valley this spring, as part of a three-year restoration project helping to restore valuable heath and bog habitats in the area.

The Belted Galloway cattle known as ‘The Beltie Boys’, were first introduced to both sites last year, to graze the land and help restore the rare habitats by opening up the bog and heathland landscape for wildlife.

Both sites require careful management in order to prevent scrubby vegetation such as bracken, bramble and birch from encroaching, which would lead to the loss of this valuable habitat.

The cattle have started to make tracks through the denser overgrowth at both sites, grazing the invading birch scrub and helping to maintain a healthy balance between the habitat types.

They were due to return on May 3 and will be joined by up to four additional Belted Galloways  – Opal, Mouse, Melon and Carlos.

At Cleddon Bog, six pedigree cattle known as the 'Ancient cattle of Wales' will be brought in to graze the site.

Welsh Cattle
Ancient Welsh cattle (Supplied)

The cattle are a rare breed and bring back original bloodlines from the Welsh Black Cattle, the oldest in Britain, having inhabited the hills of Wales since pre-Roman and pre-Christian times. 

The cattle will graze both sites between May-September before returning again next year.

The restoration work is a joint project between Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Wye Valley National Landscape and is being funded by a small peatlands grant from NRW.

Rosalind Watkins, Senior Land Management Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: “This has been a great opportunity for NRW to work with the Wye Valley National Landscape team on a very important and exciting project and I’m really pleased to see the cattle return to both sites for a second year.

“Grazing with cattle is an important management tool as they selectively graze the heathland plants and browse some of the invading birch scrub, helping to maintain a healthy balance between the habitat types.

“The scale and rate of biodiversity loss across the nation is accelerating, which is why partnership projects such as this are so important.

“I look forward to seeing the benefits this partnership project will have on the condition of these valuable habitats.”

Alex Crawley from Conservation Grazing Management  said “Grazing season 2024 looks really exciting, more cattle, for the whole summer. We should start to have some noticeable ecological impacts on both the peatbog and heathland.

“In addition to the charismatic belted Galloways, we are also introducing the beautiful ancient cattle of Wales,  helping to bring back this very rare Welsh breed. We're really pleased that this is part of a 3-year contract with NRW so we can invest longer-term in the site."

Andrew Blake, Manager of the Wye Valley National Landscape said: “We are delighted that so many local people have stepped up to help with the conservation grazing project. Ten volunteers have been trained as 'lookers' to keep an eye on the cattle and ensure their health and welfare through regular visual checks.

"All the volunteers passed a LANTRA qualification in livestock checking (run by the Rare Breed Survival Trust) and now have a rota to carry out the daily checks.

"These volunteers are doing vital work supporting these conservation grazing restoration programmes, where traditional breed cattle are helping to restore rare habitats by opening up the bog and heathland landscapes for the benefit of wildlife.

"It's very much a joint effort with Alex and Emily Crawley and Paula Simpson from the Grazing Management team, the specialist conservation grazing business based in St Briavels who own the cattle."