Cattle will return to graze on Bignor Hill

SUSSEX cattle will be returning to graze Bignor Hill for the first time in more than 50 years.

That’s according to Mark Wardle, National Trust head warden, who said: “The benefits to wildlife are really exciting and there will be many more wild flowers such as vipers buglos, field scabious and harebells. In turn, many insects will increase, including marbled white and small copper butterflies.

“However, folk are going to see new gates and fencing and yew trees will have to be felled, sadly including some older ones, to enable the cattle to graze safely.”

Bignor Hill was once part of a substantial area of common land stretching along the hill from Whiteways Lodge on the A29 to the A285 at Duncton Hill.

“The chalk heath of this common was different to the close grazed slopes of the South Downs because of the layer of clay on top of the chalk. Common heather, more associated with the Wealden heaths, was abundant, and the last few plants died out only a few years ago.

“Initially, with fewer yew trees, a new fence and gates, things will look different and it will feel much more open with new views. Not much fencing is needed to enclose the area as it is alongside some of the existing fields of Gumber Farm. When the cattle are off the hill, the gates will be locked open so that people will be able to pass through freely.”

Two significant clumps of yew trees will be fenced out as yew is poisonous to livestock. The majority of the trees are also on one of the best surviving sections of Stane Street, the Roman road which connects Chichester to London.

Farm tenant Tom Tupper, whose family have farmed in Bignor for more than 400 yeas, said: “It will be great to see the cattle grazing on the hill.” Tom is also a member of the South Downs National Park Authority, which supports his plans for improved stewardship of his land.

Nigel James, Central Downs area manager for the park, said: “Grazing is key to looking after this precious landscape and the cattle will be hard at work as part of a bigger project linking chalk downland habitats up across the park.”