The end of yet another grazing season fast approaches and with it any lingering ideas that halcyon days are still with us are banished. The evenings are drawing in and cooler days mean that grass growth becomes imperceptible and no longer sufficient to sustain the livestock. They have done their job of maintaining an open pastoral riverside landscape and preventing its invasion by rank species and scrub. Over the coming weeks the cattle will be removed to their big-barn winter quarters at a farm in Great Waldingfield.
Most of the animals will return next season although, of course, there will be those which are ready for market and their days of ‘frolicking’ on the riverside are over. However, they have led a good life compared to animals that spend their entire lives in massive factory farms.
Next spring the cows will, as usual, return to the Cornard riverside and to the pastures opposite Friars Meadow. By then they will have new-born calves. The calves that are with them at the moment will have been weaned and they will be put out for their first ‘solo’ grazing season on Freemen’s and Fullingpit Meadows. It is a system that works for both grazier and the charity as well as the pastures. It is quite extraordinary to witness how flora responds to the grazing regime over a number of years and any alteration to the system has a negative effect.
This system has evolved over many years to produce a suitable regime to manage the one hundred and sixty seven acres of grazing lands. That requires a lot of livestock with an average of one hundred and seventy five animals on the lands throughout the summer. Their welfare and other needs have to be checked and attended to but this year issues and problems have been at a minimum. Hopefully next year might prove to be equally successful although on the Sudbury Common Lands that very much depends on the cooperation of site users. Elsewhere, there are conservation sites where grazing has ceased as a result of inappropriate public behaviour. The beauty and openness of the Sudbury riverside relies entirely on the historic grazing management and it is absolutely essential that it should continue into the future.