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Limestone Country Project

Location:Ingleborough and Craven, Yorkshire Dales National Park

Habitats:Limestone pavement & grassland

Livestock:Various breeds and types of livestock, Blue Grey Cattle, Belted Galloway Cattle

In brief:The Limestone Country Project aims to protect and improve some of England's most important wildlife sites by promoting the re-introduction of native cattle breeds across the Craven and Ingleborough areas of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Contact:Louise Williams (Project Officer)

Tel:01756 751610

The Limestone Country Project aims to prove that the conservation of the natural environment and appropriate livestock farming can go hand in hand, providing a model for conservation based farming across the uplands of Britain. The project is working to improve the conservation management of two internationally important wildlife areas, the Ingleborough & Craven Limestone SACs, by working with local farmers to encourage a return to mixed livestock farming including hardy upland cattle breeds.

Native upland cattle, such as beef Shorthorn, Galloway and Blue Grey would have been a common sight in the upland farms of the Dales as recently as 40 years ago. However, there has been a change from cattle, the most suitable grazing stock for conservation management purposes, to more specialised sheep enterprises. In addition the hardy upland cattle breeds, which were responsible for creating and maintaining the mosaics of habitats in the area have been replaced by less compatible modern commercial breeds. These changes in agricultural systems, along with a general increase in stock numbers, have resulted in a general decline in the conservation status of the internationally important sites for which the Limestone Country is famous. The Limestone Country Project aims to enhance the wildlife habitats of the area by trying to redress the balance of livestock grazing by providing grants to establish herds of hardy cattle breeds

In the limestone grasslands plants such as bloody crane's-bill, small scabious, rockrose and early purple orchids are expected to increase, while across the limestone pavements some of the rare plants to benefit will include limestone fern, baneberry, Soloman's seal and rigid buckler fern. There is also like to be an increase in tree and shrub cover in some areas.

One of the aims of the Project is to help the farmers develop a viable financial livelihood. As part of the agreement farmers will keep an agreed number of cattle on their farm and the cattle they rear will provide part of their farm incomes. The stock they breed from their herds can then be sold for meat or as new breeding stock. By working with local auction markets, butchers and restaurants the project will be looking to develop specialist markets for this 'specially farmed' beef to help farmers develop a ready outlet for their beef with a premium price over intensively produce beef. The project has developed the 'Limestone Country' brand to help promote local meat producers who are part of the Limestone Country project. 'Limestone Country' meat is now available from a variety of outlets including online retailing from a local butchers in Grassington - click here for more details. The brand was developed in partnership with local farmers – for more details on this contact Neal Heseltine –

The total Project value is £1.27 million, of which over £550,000 is a European LIFE (nature) Fund grant.