Conservation group claims cows are threatening ancient stones
A CONSERVATION group has again claimed cattle grazing on west Cornwall’s moorland are damaging ancient monuments.
Save Penwith Moors (SPM), which looks to protect historic sites, has claimed the animals are “destabilising” and “degrading” the stones.
Organisation members Craig Weatherhill, Steve Yandall and Ian McNeil Cooke said the problems have been persistent since Natural England implemented a new grazing policy – allowing the animals to roam freely to feed.
Mr McNeil Cooke noted a recent situation where he encountered a herd close to the Men-an-Tol stones, near St Just, which are registered as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
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“I met half a dozen cattle at the Men-an-Tol last Saturday morning but, after shouting and waving my arms, they refused to budge – as I had my dog with me I decided to turn back and retrace my steps,” he recounted.
“As at Tregeseal Circle on Carnyorth Common that has had stones destabilised by cattle rubbing against them over a dozen times since 2009, the animals at this site are gathering around the stones and using the two uprights as rubbing posts.
“They are also covering the area with many dozen heaps of dung and churning up the public right of way – virtually impassable downhill towards the stream,” he added.
Natural England responded to concerns following complaints earlier this year, and has reiterated its stance on the matter.
A spokesman said: “Natural England is committed to the sensitive management of both the natural and historic environment of west Penwith.
“Conservation grazing is a proven and successful technique, which uses livestock to graze sites in ways that help prevent important natural habitats and historic monuments becoming overrun with invasive vegetation, while also enhancing wildlife interest and maintaining public access that might otherwise become overgrown.”
However, Mr McNeil Cooke said the problems are ignored: “It is high time the authorities responsible, who have so far shown extreme inertia in doing anything about the long standing problems, take a long hard look at our natural and historic environment.”
English Heritage was unable to provide an updated comment this week but has previously said: “Over the years we have had concerns about the erosion of the soil around the stones caused by visitor pressure.
"Men-an-Tol itself was set in concrete in 1940s and other stones were re-set in 1993 in response.
“We do not expect cattle activity to cause damage to the stones or its setting, but will continue to monitor the site.”