The Bollin Valley Partnership has been working for 40 years providing a Countryside Management Service within the catchment of the River Bollin. The River Bollin is 49km in length running from the hills surrounding Macclesfield Forest to where it joins the Manchester Ship Canal at Bollin Point near Lymm in Cheshire. The main source of the River Bollin is on Toot Hill in the hamlet of Forest Chapel on the edge of Macclesfield Forest. Half way down its length the Bollin is joined by the River Dean. The catchment area of the two rivers combined is 273 square kilometres. The Bollin Valley Partnership manages sites across the valley as well as the Bollin Valley Way which approximately follows the River Bollin from Riverside Park in Macclesfield to the River Mersey near Partington.
The Bollin Valley Partnership aims to provide an efficient and cost effective countryside management service for the Bollin Valley, improve the Valley’s natural environment and its recreational opportunities. To achieve these aims they provide a Countryside Ranger service and encourage public use of the valley whilst taking part in conservation and enhancement of the natural environment. The Longhorn cattle form an integral part of this management.
In the late 80’s, the Bollin Valley Project (now Partnership), was faced with managing 100 acres of wild flower-rich grassland at Macclesfield Riverside Park and they were looking for a method which was more interesting and ecologically sound than mowing. Grazing was deemed to be the most sustainable method to manage the land as it would both encourage wildflowers though removal of coarse grasses that compete with wildflowers, and also mean that large areas of pasture land didn’t have to be mechanically mown. The country park was already being heavily used by the public for recreation, mainly walking, dog walking and running so if the area was to be grazed then the animals had to be hardy, tolerant of people and unworried by dogs.
In 1988, after investigating various alternatives, the Project bought 11 Longhorn cows and two calves from various herds around the country including Alan Cheese, (Mavesyn herd), Peter Close, (Fishwick herd) and the Boldvale Herd. Founder cows Westward Julie and Tottiskay Heather are two cows that bred well, with Westward Julie being the dam of Bollin Jill, the Partnerships first show cow. Showing used to be a large part of the Partnership’s summers, with a number of successes at shows across the country. It was seen as a valuable way of promoting the Partnership and it’s activities. In recent years a reduction in staffing numbers has impacted on the ability of the Partnership being able to get out and about in the showring quite as much.
Since the 1980’s, the herd has been building up in numbers as and when further grassland management has been required. One of the added bonuses of Longhorns was that at that time they were on the RBST Watchlist which created both a further conservation aspect and an educational opportunity. The Partnership have made the most of this by hosting farm visits and ‘Meet the Longhorn’ events for people to find out more about why they keep the cattle and to learn more about them, whilst seeing them at close quarters.
In addition to their other regular duties, the Bollin Valley rangers, under the direction of Tim Harding, currently manage a herd of around 80 animals. These animals graze a range of habitats along the course of the River Bollin, from Tegg’s Nose 1200ft up in the Peak District above Macclesfield to the flood plain at Riverside Park in Macclesfield itself. These areas are fully accessible to the public so steers and heifers are grazed in these areas, with calving cows running with the bulls graze land that is either not open to the public, or the footpaths run adjacent to the fields. At the time of writing Blackbrook Warrior was running with a group of cows and calves on land at the very edge of Manchester Airport, with planes taking off and landing less than 500 metres away!
The cattle are out at grass all summer and then are housed at Oakwood Farm in Styal over the winter.
Other than buying in new bulls the herd operates as a closed herd – the breeding policy aims to retain the best characteristics of the cattle – their docile nature and easy calving. Fishwick Sherman was bought in 2019 and started working in the herd in 2020 alongside Fishwick Poseidon and Blackbrook Warrior.
The best heifers are kept in the herd; the steers are sold at 12 – 18 months, historically at Chelford and Beeston Castle markets, but with their closure other outlets are being investigated including other live markets, Society sales and private sales advertised via the Longhorn Cattle Society. The herd have been great supporters of Longhorn Cattle Society sales over the years and homebred bull Bollin Rupert was Breed Champion at the Society’s Sale at Beeston Castle in 2018.
The Longhorn cattle are a vital and integral part of the management of the River Bollin catchment and are loved and enjoyed by the large number of members of the public who see them every day