A HERD of cattle has been creating much interest on the slopes of Ingleborough this week as part of a drive to take Yorkshire Dales farming into the future - by going back to the past.
Until 25 years or so, hardy cattle were a regular sight on the Dales fells, allowing hill farmers more variety of livestock and wider markets. But the follies of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) caused most farmers to switch entirely to sheep - and this led to serious environmental damage.
Sheep close-crop grass, taking with it many varieties of wild flowers which once flourished on the limestone pastures. They can also destroy acres of heather moorland, which provides cover and food for many species of ground nesting birds.
Cattle do not trim the grass so short and this allows flowers and the insects that feed on them to thrive. So a herd of 26 Blue Grey cattle, a hardy breed which was once common in the uplands, has been introduced onto the important Ingleborough nature reserve.
This is part of English Nature's Limestone Country Project, designed to re-introduce more environmentally friendly farming back to the Dales, and this week, officials from DEFRA travelled from London to inspect the herd.
Dr Paul Evans, Ingleborough National Nature Reserve Manager, said: "We are delighted to see the first herd of Blue-Greys on the Ingleborough National Nature Reserve; it is a real indication that the Limestone Country Project is progressing well and we hope to see more traditional hardy breeds in the area soon.
"The visit by DEFRA's officers provides us with a real opportunity to demonstrate to policy-makers the future role of conservation-based farming in the environmental conservation of Europe's protected landscapes.