Volunteers wanted to protect cattle

CATTLE grazing on an historic common could become a thing of the past if volunteers do not come forward to help stop troublemakers, it has been claimed.

Dave Gooderham

CATTLE grazing on an historic common could become a thing of the past if volunteers do not come forward to help stop troublemakers, it has been claimed.

Tourists and townspeople have visited Sudbury Common Lands for hundreds of years to see livestock grazing on land also used for public recreation.

But the Commons Land Trust has revealed that securing the future of the much-loved cattle is a major challenge after anti-social behaviour on the land led to fears that the livestock could be taken away.

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Now trustees are hoping to start a voluntary ranger service to identify potential problems after receiving a £47,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Adrian Walters, clerk to the trustees, said: “Incidents involving the cattle have made it increasingly possible that the grazier could withdraw livestock from Sudbury's commons and, as graziers are now few and far between, the likelihood of finding other suitable livestock would be remote were the animals to be removed because of problems relating to anti-social behaviour.

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“There is no doubt that the greatest challenge for the trustees is to maintain the grazing and continue a recorded historic tradition that stretches unbroken from the twelfth century to the present.”

Mr Walters said the Lottery funding would help pay for the voluntary ranger project, entitled A Future For Our Riverside Meadow, which will allow people, after training, to act as “eyes and ears” to stop any problems.

He added: “Inevitably some may claim that a 'Big Brother' approach will spoil people's enjoyment of the riverside but the fact is that anyone who uses the land in a responsible manner has absolutely nothing to be concerned about and will benefit.”

While some livestock remain on the land, the Highland cattle, once regarded as a special feature of the local nature reserve, were removed from the site after visitors ignored safety warnings by photographing at close quarters and even attempting to stroke them.

“The Highland cattle had become a special feature of the local nature reserve. They helped put Sudbury's historic common lands on the heritage map,” said Mr Walters.

“People felt incensed that the cattle should be removed from Sudbury's ancient commons because of the inappropriate behaviour of a few individuals who continued to ignore unequivocal and clear advice at every access point.

“Some even expressed the view that as the land had been grazed for hundreds of years the cattle had more right to be there than people.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the voluntary scheme should ring the number provided at all access points to the commons.

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