The Colne Valley Landscape Partnership team have introduced conservation grazing at Stanwell Moor to boost biodiversity.


Photo: Aberdeen Angus cattle at Stanwell Moor

Staines Moor SSSI (site of special scientific interest) contains Stanwell Moor and is arguably the hidden jewel of Staines. Natural England designated Staines Moor as a SSSI in 1984 because:

  • It supported a rich flora and represented the largest area of alluvial meadows in Surrey
  • Nationally important populations of wintering wildfowl and wading birds came to the moor from the surrounding reservoirs to forage and breed
  • The pond at the site carried an aquatic flora which is of national importance, including one plant which is extremely rare in Britain

Photo: Jack Snipe at Stanwell Moor (Lee Dingain 2015)

The North East corner of Staines Moor was historically grazed by cattle. When grazing ceased many years ago,  scrub and trees began to grow uncontrolled. Unfortunately, the site also attracted a lot of antisocial behaviour - the moor developed the nickname ‘burnt car field’. Now in 2020, the site still holds interesting plants and wildlife but the willow, hawthorn, coarse grasses and invasive species have started to dominate.

Photo: Visitors on a bird walk Stanwell Moor (October 2019)

Given the rich natural history and biodiversity potential of this site, the Colne Valley Landscape Partnership team selected Stanwell Moor for their Conservation Grazing Project.

What is conservation grazing?

Conservation grazing is a land management practice that uses livestock to control vegetation. This traditional management technique has many advantages over management using tools and machinery. Sheep, horses and cattle grazing have different effects on the land. Cattle grazing promotes biodiversity because:

  • Cattle eat a diversity of plants – their grazing pattern creates diverse, flower-rich swards
  • Cattle can push through scrub and graze tall, coarse vegetation
  • Cattle grazing creates areas of tussocky vegetation which benefit invertebrates and small mammals

Photo: Double rainbow over Stanwell Moor

What changed at Stanwell Moor?

In preparation for the arrival of the cattle, the burnt cars and fly tipping were removed from the site and a fence installed around the perimeter.

5 Aberdeen Angus cattle arrived at Stanwell Moor in Spring 2019. Just as planned, the herd immediately got to work grazing a variety of vegetation, even chewing away some of the problem species like the invasive Himalayan Balsam!

Conservation Grazing elsewhere in the Colne Valley

The Colne Valley Landscape Partnership Team also introduced cattle to:

  • Stocker’s Lake meadows in June 2019
  • Misbourne Meadow at Denham Country Park in July 2019

The cattle’s grazing will restore the meadows, forcing back the coarse and dominant grasses and allowing more invertebrates and lower growing plant species to thrive.

Photo: Sussex cattle at Denham Country Park

Volunteer Cattle Checkers needed

The Colne Valley team need help from locals who walk regularly at Stanwell Moor, Stocker’s Lake and/or Denham Country Park. Volunteer Cattle Checkers are needed to keep an eye out on the cattle over Spring/Summer while they’re busy restoring the meadows.

Volunteers will receive training in how to check cattle e.g. what signs and symptoms of illness and disease to look for.

The programme is totally flexible – you decide how often you want to volunteer. Each individual will be fully supported by the Colne Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme, who will provide training and equipment as well as offering meadow-focused workshops and social events.

If you are interested in becoming a Cattle Checker please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting. From an original concept by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust.