A grazing conservation project at Mill Meadows in Billericay has been awarded a Living Landscapes Award. The project was a partnership between Basildon Council which owns and manages the land, Essex County Council’s Essex Grazing Project and the Mill Meadows Society.
The Living Landscape Awards, which are run by the Wildlife Trusts, recognise the organisations and individuals that make a difference to local wildlife and benefit the local environment, community and economy.
Mill Meadows is a 90-acre ancient wildflower nature reserve. It is designated and protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as one of the best examples of rare and threatened semi-natural grassland in the UK. The nature reserve is grazed by a herd of Red Poll cattle, a native breed to East Anglia, owned by Essex County Council’s Grazing Project. A group of volunteers from the Mill Meadows Society were trained to carry out daily welfare checks on the cattle and to help to move the cattle around the site to ensure the meadow is not overgrazed and local rare plants, such as the heath spotted orchid, can set seed.
The project is also helping to support local wildlife by providing the perfect habitat for butterflies and insect species which in turn form part of the food chain supporting many birds and bats. The impact of the cattle on the grasslands creates a bumpy terrain which is ideal for homing small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Cllr Simon Walsh, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “This is an excellent example of a project which is supporting both local wildlife and the local community. I’m delighted this has been recognised by a Living Landscapes Award.”