Conservation cattle leave Sefton coast for the summer

02 May 2024 3min read

In this week's Sefton Coast article, John Dempsey shares an update on the conservation cattle and the important work they do along our coastline.

After a winter of stomping, chomping and occasionally "mooing", the conservation grazing have now left Ainsdale and Birkdale Sandhills Local Nature Reserve.

The place already seems quieter without them even as birdsong increases and the spring progresses.

This winter the two small herds of Longhorn cattle proved as popular ever, whether it qas the "polled" group on Ainsdale or the proud party of fully horned beasts led by Big George on the sandhills at Birkdale.

Working with Lancashire Wildlife Trust the magnificent livestock were monitored on a daily basis by Green Sefton staff and volunteers to ensure they remained fit and healthy as they carried out vital dune work over the winter months.

Ironically we only tend to see the benefit of their work once they have gone - areas of cropped vegetation and trampled saplings keep the dune system open the with plenty of patches of bare sand.

They control the spread of scrub and remove rank vegetation or biomass left from the autumn. 

By the very action of walking, these big beats "poach" the ground, churning areas up for it dry come spring and become attractive for a host specialised dune species. 

By clearing the ground dune this allows species including Rue-Leaved Saxifrage and Heath Dog Voilet to appear in profusion and in turn they act as valuable food plants for a range of insects. The caterpillars of dune system's biggest butterfly, the Dark Green Fritillary for example, rely on Heath Dog Voilet as a food source.

This source of food would be lost if scrub was allowed to spread unabated, while bare sand is attractive to heat lovers including Sand Lizards, Natterjack Toad and Northern Dune Tiger Beetles. 

Green Sefton, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (and, of course, Big George and his friends) would like to thank the majority of dog walkers who followed the Countryside Code when around the livestock over the winter, keeping their pets under control and away from cattle and sheep in our fences enclosures so they could graze peacefully and without harm. 

This year app technology allowed visitors to the dunes to log on and discover exactly where the cows were on the Local Nature Reserve at Ainsdale and Birkdale and so avoid them if necessary.

We look forward to the herds returning to the Sefton dune system in October after a summer break at Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserves in the North West.

Green Sefton's Countryside Officer, Gordon White commented: "Lancashire Wildlife Trust's cows and have done an excellent job again and coupled with other winter conservation works from the core and stewardship teams, contractors and tireless groups and individual conservation volunteers, the habitat improvements across the Council's protected sites have been very successful this winter."

Visiting the coast this weekend

People are encouraged to plan ahead to avoid traffic delays and are reminded to park responsibly and considerately.

On-beach car parking is available at Ainsdale beach, however the car park can fill up quickly during the Bank Holiday weekend.

Southport beach car park will remain closed for the time being due to unsuitable condition of the sand, which has been caused by extensive periods of wet weather. Green Sefton rangers conduct regular checks so the beach parking in Southport can be opened as soon as the conditions are safe.

Beach car parking charges for 2024 are:

  • £8 per day for cars at Southport beach; reduced to £4 after 4pm
  • £10 per day for cars at Ainsdale beach; reduced to £5 after 4pm
  • £16 per day for horseboxes or minibuses
  • £37.50 season ticket for Sefton residents and those who drive an electric or hybrid vehicle
  • £75 season ticket for non-Sefton residents

The car parks operate a cashless payment system as a preference.

You can buy your money-saving season ticket here.

Car parking for the beach at Formby is managed by the National Trust, who have lots of helpful tips for anyone planning a visit there, at

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