Horsepower is making way for cow power in an attempt to keep grasslands trim.

Sutton Council is drafting in a crack team of Sussex cattle to look after the rare chalk grasslands of Roundshaw Downs.

The cattle, one of the UK's oldest breeds, will be tasked with keeping weeds and shrubs away from the borough's largest nature reserve. It was feared the weeds could potentially overrun the downs, which is vital to harbouring wild flowers, insects and ground-nesting birds like skylarks.

The chalk grasslands are rarely found outside the south east and can support rare breeds of plants and animals such as the greater yellow rattle and meadow pipits.

Sutton Council claim mowing costs will be reduced by £2,000 a year as a result.

Councillor Colin Hall, environment spokesman, said: “This is an innovative way of helping to preserve Sutton’s rare chalk grasslands. The Downs can support up to 50 different species of plants within one square metre, and bringing in grazing cattle will help the plants and animals that live there to flourish.

“It’s also a great way of bringing a little bit of the countryside into the city, and will give local children the chance to see farmyard animals right on their doorsteps.”

The cows will be looked after by welfare experts from the Heritage Lottery Old Surrey Downs Project.

Following a year of consultation with residents, plans were agreed unanimously at the Beddington and Wallington Local Committee on 11 October.


Mechanics: 32 teeth
Weight: 600 to 900 kg
Length: 1.9 to 2.5 metres (6.2 to 8.2 ft) long
Habitat: Grasslands
Lifespan: 15 - 25 years
Speed: Up to 37 mph (60 km/hr)
Diet: tree leaves, grass and ferns
Hours of work: Cattle graze up to 8 hours a day, taking in about 45 kg (100 lb) of feed. Cows can drink up to 35 gallons of water a day.
INTERESTING FACT - A cow stands up and sits down about 14 times a day.

LAWNMOWER (Poulan Pro PB2H54YT riding mower)
Mechanics: Briggs & Stratton Intek V-Twin. Weight: 600lbs. Habitat: Garage. Lifespan: 2 year warranty.
Speed: 5.5 mph
Diet: Anything in its way
Hours of work: Whenever you hit the button. (Features a cup holder for breaks)
INTERESTING FACT - the first lawnmower was invented in 1827 in Stroud, Gloucestershire, by Edwin Budding.