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Lindisfarne NNR Grazing Project

Location:Lindisfarne, Northumberland


Livestock:Various breeds of cattle

In brief:Lindisfarne NNR site protects a long stretch of North East coastline, including the dunes of Holy Island. Lindisfarne has international recognition as a “Ramsar” site for a wetland of international significance.

Contact:Andrew Craggs, Natural England

Tel:01289 381 470


The island which can only be reached at low tide across a long causeway receives one million visitors each year. The tidal mudflats, salt marshes and dunes combine to create an area rich in plants (nine types of orchid) and birds (wintering for pinkfooted and greylag geese, wigeon, grey plovers and bar-tailed godwits). Butterflies supported by the flora & fauna include grayling, ringlet, dark green fritillary and Meadowbrown. Pirri-pirri burr, imported from New Zealand is a problem species on the island. 

The area had not been significantly grazed except by rabbits for some years before Hebridean sheep grazing was introduced to small areas of dunes between Emmanuel Head and The Links in 1993. There have always been occasional problems with the sheep and dogs walking close by, so in 2005 the sheep were removed and a new larger area was created suitable for grazing with cattle. Approximately 130ha of The Links and Emmanuel Head are now fenced with some boundaries being the North Sea coastline. Cattle are now grazed in autumn and early spring. Around 38 in calf cows of mixed breeds including Hereford and Limousin crosses, in calf to a Limousin bull are used. 

The cattle roam quite freely over the area with no particular pattern to their grazing. At the moment there are areas of fresh water that the cattle can use but a large static water bowser is in place that is replenished using a smaller bowser hauled by ATV whenever necessary. The grazier values Lindisfarne as a place high conservation, cultural and recreational importance. He has 130 suckler cows plus followers on his farm a few miles in land from Lindisfarne. 

Look forward to a GAP visit in October when the cattle will be back. You can download a flyer for the reserve from the English Nature website or type “Lindisfarne NNR” into a web search.