Is it a park, or is it a cattle field?

Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space
Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space

QUESTIONS are being asked about Towcester’s newest beauty spot as cattle churn up fields during the wet weather and chase off dog walkers as they rear new born calves.

Plough Inn landlord Nick Hastings has written to the management committee of Towcester Watermeadows after being chased off the public park while walking his dog.

Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space

Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space

The Watermeadows were turned into public park in 2010 as the first phase of the Moat Lane regeneration project and restoration for Bury mount. when they were bought from the Easton Neston Estate by South Northants Council and the West Northants Developments Corporation. A management committee was set up to oversee the park, including members and officers of the town and district councils, and members of the Towcester Wildlife Trust.

In the early stages it had been agreed cattle grazing would be used to help manage the site, with a two year review.

Mr Hastings, and other dog walkers, believe the balance between a grazing field and a public park has tipped in the wrong direction. Mr Hastings said the long spell of wet weather has resulted in cows gathering under trees along the public footpath, churning the mud, making them almost impassible.

He asked: “Do they want it to be a park or a field? I have been chased out twice this week. I just find it extraordinary they want to mix the two.

Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space

Towcester Watermeadows, concern over cows in public space

“The answer is simple, tell the farmer to use a different field or put the cows in the field the other end. A lot of people have told me at the bar, especially women, they refuse to walk there because of the cows.”

Dog walker Jay Haycock said: “It is shame, it is a nice park. As a dog walker I’m more worried about my dog chasing the cows, but she’s alright with them.

“But it would be nice to see less cows, perhaps then we might see more families using the park for picnics.”

Committee member and Peter Allen said: “I’m sure it needs some tweeking, and may be the whole basis of how we run it changes. But personally I think we will lose something if it does. People complain about a barrier between town and country. Perhaps this shows some of the reality of a rural area.”

Rebecca Breese SNC’s, portfolio holder for planning and environment, said the management group have a plan in place which is reviewed regularly, that encourages a diversity of nature whilst allowing public access.

She added: “Within this plan the grassland is managed by allowing a local farmer to graze his sheep and cattle under licence, which is normal practice for an area such as this.

“As part of maintaining the watermeadows SNC has spent a total of £8,000 on tree maintenance, repairing bridges, gates and fencing in order to make this area available to the public.

“Dogs should be kept on a lead when livestock are grazing as stated on the information sign, and visitors should follow the countryside code.

“We have received so much positive feedback about the watermeadows, and I am sure that this summer many more people will enjoy spending time in such an idyllic spot.”