In 2009 the Essex Rural Commission were asked by Essex County Council (ECC) to examine issues around living and working in rural Essex, and to develop recommendations for the delivery of improvements in the quality of life in rural Essex. Addressing the decline of livestock grazing in the County was identified as an important issue in three of the Commission’s twelve priority areas:
As a result, Legacy Grazing was born with the aim of developing a herd of native breed cattle to help the Council and its partners work towards these aspirations.
At the start of 2010 our first pedigree Red Poll cows arrived, the equipment needed to move and maintain a herd of cattle was purchased and our first young apprentice was appointed. Nine years later and the project now supplies heritage grazing to over 900 hectares of land at sites throughout Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Kent - many of which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Local Wildlife Sites (LoWS).
Legacy Grazing is a member of the Red Poll Cattle Society. Red Poll cattle are a traditional East Anglian variety identified as a native breed at risk and all of the cattle are registered as pure bred. The herd was established in 2009 and currently comprises over 300 cattle. An extensive grazing system is followed and the breed are slow maturing with each animal taking between 18 to 24 months to finish.
In 2015 we acquired 60 Old English goats with a view to developing a breeding herd to complement the Red Polls and provide an effective way to control scrub that has become too tall or woody for the cattle to manage.
Since summer 2018 we have been supporting Essex Wildlife Trust with the management of their flock of native breed sheep at Tollesbury Wick nature reserve. We also use our own flock of sheep at Abberton where a tighter sward and lighter touch is required due to the presence of uncommon waxcap fungi.
Previously known as the Essex Grazing Project, in 2017 we changed our name to 'Legacy Grazing' to accommodate the expansion of the project beyond the boundary of Essex. Legacy has always been the name of the herd, due to our close connections to the Olympics Legacy at Hadleigh Park, but also reflects our objectives to conserve traditional landscapes, breeds and skills.
Sharing knowledge and skills is at the heart of Legacy Grazing and with funding initially provided by the Veolia North Thames Trust and Essex County Council's Skills Team we established an apprenticeship, who supports the Herd Manager and his team across the various project sites.
We also provide regular training to volunteers who support project staff with daily cattle checks at each site. We are thankful to Active Essex, the Stansted Airport Community Fund and Natural England who have all provided funding to enable us to run free training workshops.
If you're interested in finding out more about conservation grazing, we've collected some useful information together to get you started.
If you like the look of our project and think you might like to become one of our volunteers, click the link below for more information on how you can get involved.