Welwyn's cow controversy

PUBLISHED: 09:41 04 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:45 04 February 2016

Singlers Marsh

Singlers Marsh

Archant

Cows should not be allowed to graze public open land in Welwyn, because they damage it and deter users, critics urge.

The borough council, which owns Singlers Marsh, a wet meadow on the edge of the village, has allowed cattle to graze for several years as “recognised good practice”.

But some villagers, including volunteers who care for the marsh, dispute the alleged conservation benefits, and want the cattle removed.

Rab Harley of the Singlers Marsh Special Interest Group told the Welwyn Hatfield Times the cows were useless for their primary objective, keeping nettles down.

He said: “Cattle don’t eat nettles anyway.

“There has never been any support for grazing on the marsh.

“The marsh is an amenity area, but some elderly people are frightened to walk there because of the cattle.

“They don’t bother me, but it is putting people off.

“The council have ignored us for years.

“The cattle go in the river and break the banks. People are told not to let dogs in the river, but one cow in a day can do more damage than a whole year of dogs.

“We have planted irises and other plants, but the cattle eat them up.”

A borough council spokeswoman responded: “The Singlers Marsh Management Plan was adopted in 2014, and outlines our approach to maintain and enhance the space for the benefit of all its users. We receive a grant from Defra to deliver an approved plan that encourages best practice.

“The plan went out for consultation, and all views were taken into account by members at the various stages of committee and council approval.

“Grazing cattle on unimproved grassland, such as this meadow flood plain at Singlers Marsh, is recognised good practice and, after careful consideration of the many factors involved, members agreed that this method of rural land management is an important part of maintaining this much-valued public space.”

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