Cumbria

Rare high brown fritillary butterfly helped by cattle

High Brown Fritillary butterfly Image copyright Robert Goodison/Natural England
Image caption The high brown fritillary is now confined to a few sites in north-west England, Dartmoor, Exmoor and Wales

Cattle at a Lake District hill farm are helping to make a habitat for a critically-endangered butterfly.

A herd of Luing cattle is being used to create a haven for the high brown fritillaries as part of a scheme by Natural England.

The species' population has fallen by more than 90% since the 1970s.

Area manager Simon Humphries said the cattle were excellent "where conservation grazing is needed and very well-suited to the uplands of Cumbria".

Their trampling and grazing keeps bracken at High House Farm, Winster, in check. This in turn allows violets - the butterfly larvae's favoured food - to grow.

Image copyright Rob Grange photography
Image caption Luing cattle were first bred on the Hebridean island of Luing in the 1940s

Farm manager Alec Smith said: "The Luings have demonstrated many valuable benefits to our farm and to our landscape.

"We needed a breed that could manage adequately our rough, Lakeland land with minimal handling, yet still deliver productivity and a high commercial yield."

Natural England has found Luing cattle to be among the best traditional cattle breeds for "conservation grazing".

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