Regular visitors to Friends of the Lake District’s land at the Helm, Oxenholme, near Kendal, will have noticed the return of grazing cattle after several months’ absence since last summer.

Six rare breed Luing cattle (a hardy breed developed in Scotland from Highland cattle), one white beef shorthorn (a rare breed that used to be called ‘Cumberland White’, a local breed) and a Blue Grey (a white shorthorn/Galloway cross) are now making the Helm their home.

The cattle are here with a special task, to help with conservation grazing, along with the seven fell ponies that live on the Helm.

The cattle and fell ponies have been chosen to graze the Helm as part of the Friends of the Lake District’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme. This national scheme gives farmers and landowners financial support for work that helps improve conservation.

On the Helm the cattle and Fell ponies help with conservation grazing, to control the spread of scrub and gorse. The animals will trample on gorse as they forage and move around the fellside, helping to arrest its spread, as well as creating open ground in their hoof marks so that wild flower seeds can germinate. It means that the area becomes more species rich as other plant varieties have the chance to prosper rather than one or two more dominant species.

The cattle are grazed by farmer John Atkinson, of Nibthwaite Grange Farm, near Coniston Water, who does a lot of conservation grazing. He said: ‘The Helm is a great place for my heifers, away from any bulls and the grass is very good grazing. The cattle are bred to live outside all year round.’

Nicola Evans, a breeder of Fell ponies, currently has seven of her ponies on our property at the Helm. Nicola, an ecologist and member of the Fell Pony Society also puts on Fell pony displays at local events across the region during the summer months.  

Nicola said: ‘I graze the younger ponies on the Helm where food is plentiful. I tend to graze ponies up to two years old. They’re still doing a lot of growing at this age so all the energy goes to good use. I’ve found that mature ponies tend to put on the pounds here as the area provides such a good source of food for them.

‘The ponies share their space with the cattle who are also youngsters but they seem to be making friends. There is no real competition for food or space so it’s a harmonious space at the moment!’

Our land on the Helm is open to the public and well worth a visit. You’ll see the cattle – Victoria, Violet, Vimto, Pearl, Vanilla and Viennetta, and the fell ponies - Shannon, Ascot, Gypsy, Britannia, Rowan, Riva and Pluto - enjoying life on the Helm. 

Dog walkers are asked to keep dogs under effective control around the animals.

For more information and directions to our land at the Helm, please visit our Helm page.   

The Helm

Since 2007, we have installed gates improving access on the Helm for all to enjoy. We have also introduced a rare breed of fell pony, native to Cumbria, to help with conservation through their grazing. Our volunteers work to maintain the dry stone walls that are a part of its character, as well as being important to keep the fell ponies and cows in. We have planted over 1,500 trees, including oak, rowan, birch, wild cherry and hawthorn to create a new wood for people and wildlife to visit all year round.

The Helm benefits from a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, funded by the ‘European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development’ which enables us to do habitat and landscape enhancement.