Sunday, 19 May 2013

Mind The Gap

A little late but a very welcome sight is the return of cows to Petersham Meadows. The old Petersham Herd of cows and calves have been replaced by ten Belted Galloways. These good natured, hardy animals are naturally without horns and have a characteristic white band around their middle. Some are still in their winter coat, hence the shaggy appearance. The steers are owned by the Surrey Wildlife Trust who’ve adopted the breed for grazing other reserve land.

Belted Galloways crossing the public footpath
The cows checkout the drinking arrangements

Dogs are now banned on Petersham Meadows during the grazing season, April to October, and subject to a £1000 fine. Temporary signs have been erected at each entrance but many dog walkers appear unaware of the new arrangements. Also a new fence has been constructed along the inside of the towpath to prevent dogs entering the Petersham Meadows and provides a route for the public during high tides.
Confusing signs misleads dog walker
New fence and gates

For two seasons the risk averse National Trust have restricted cows on Petersham Meadows and limited public access. This season the cows are the responsibility of the Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Council are in charge of signage and dog enforcement and the National Trust can rest easy. This new arrangement leaves sufficient gaps to avoid any potential liability.

 Temporary signs

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Public Poorly Served

Richmond & Twickenham Times – April 5, 2013

Cows victorious in cattle battle
The cows have come out as champions in the lengthy battle for a place on Petersham Meadows. The Petersham Herd will not be returning but a new untested herd. The old herd has been broken up and the farmer completely disillusioned by his experience with the National Trust.

Cows can resume grazing on the meadows along Richmond riverside this month, following a joint agreement between Richmond Council and the National Trust.
The announcement has come just months after farmer Ian Brown, who looks after the cows, was told his stock would be turfed out of their usual grazing spot because of wrangling over an electric fence. Herdsman Ian Brown will not be employed for this season after more than a decade looking after the cows on the meadows.

The new plan is welcome news to the National Trust, which has been in discussion with the council for months about letting the cows stay.
Regional director for the National Trust for London and south-east Hilary McGrady said: ‘The National Trust always wanted to see the cows grazing on Petersham so we are delighted that this is now possible’.

The agreement allows for a temporary fence, running along the flood defence wall, to be installed at the start of grazing season and will be taken down when the cows have gone to pastures new.
Cabinet member for the environment and planning Councillor Virginia Morris said: ‘It will be wonderful to see the continuation of cows grazing in the meadows’.

‘We have worked with the National Trust to agree a solution that safeguards the interests of visitors and users of the meadows and, importantly, the cows.’

The National Trust put up an unpopular fence on the meadows following a dog attack on a cow in May 2011. Dogs are currently allowed on the meadows but must be on leads.

Richard Parkes from Twickenham said: ‘As a dog walker I would say we are spoilt for choices in the borough for where we can walk our dogs, so cows enjoy’.

Our heritage is cows grazing on the Petersham Meadows, which on the face of it will occur for part of 2013. Work on the fence has not yet started so how it will look and function is unclear. The National Trust is still confused about the nature of the meadow and thinks its biodiversity is reduced by grazing even though it ceased to be a water meadow years ago. Plans to section off the small meadow remain active. The interests of the public have not been well served by this agreement between Richmond Council and the National Trust. There were no reports of members of the public being injured by the Petersham Herd and visitors always found them very docile. It is unlikely that this group of cattle will prove to be just as passive and the National Trust has been warned.
The herd's final day on Petersham Meadows, November 2012

Friday, 8 February 2013

Petersham cows not moo-ving back in, as fence proves divisive

Cows will not return to Petersham Meadows later this year, despite the National Trust being paid more than £500,000 to keep them there. 
£1000's spent on electric fence and signs

The move comes after a long battle between the National Trust, Richmond Council, dog walkers and farmer Ian Brown, who looks after the cows that graze on the meadow.

The National Trust was paid a £500,000 endowment to keep the cows on the meadows but, following a dog attack on a cow in May 2011, the National Trust put a fence that proved unpopular.
Poor state of the Meadow in November 2012

Dogs are currently banned from the meadows but are allowed on leads on the paths.

GeriSilverstone, of the National Trust, said: “Unless we can come up with some sort of erection on the meadow we are not going to be able to break the status quo. “Until we can get a decision on this it is not safe for us to put the cows on the meadow.”
Weeds cut and left out of sight

The National Trust said it was disappointed the council rejected proposals to put a fence along the side of the meadow.

But ward councillor for Petersham Sir David Williams said the fence proposed by the National Trust would breach the 1902 Act, which protects the view from Richmond Hill - the only view in England to be protected by an act of Parliament.

He said: “The National Trust was making unreasonable demands and is using that as an excuse not to put the cattle back.

“For a national charity that is supposed to be looking after English heritage, it acts like a nasty property company that puts out PR spin if it doesn’t get its way.”
Local residents express their feelings

Last year, Richmond Council put forward a dog control order banning them from the meadow between April and November, which it was hoped would solve the problem.

The Regulatory Committee, which will decide if there should be a dog control order on the meadows, will take place next week on February 13.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Petersham Meadows Annual Report 2012

- with highlights from National Trust Annual Reports

Membership & visitor numbers
The wet summer of 2007 impacted on many UK visitor attractions and caused a knock-on effect on domestic holiday booking the following year. The economic downturn in late 2008 saw a reversal of this trend with the new financial environment having a positive effect on visitor numbers. The weakness of the pound attracted more overseas visitors while domestic concerns gave rise to the ‘Staycation’. Visits to historic houses were further boosted by the ‘Downton Effect’, following the runaway success of Downton Abbey, and the Royal Wedding in 2011.

Between 2008/9 and 2011/12 National Trust membership rose 8% whereas English Heritage membership increased 67%. Visitor numbers also increased at National Trust properties seeing a 31% rise. This was in line with other visitor attractions like Chatsworth House also up 31% in the same period but well below places like Blenheim Palace up 53%.
Everything we do is underpinned by a sound financial footing and we met our financial targets’
National Trust 2011/12 Annual Report
Property operating costs up 38%. Defined benefit pension scheme liability up 109%
Source: National Trust Annual Reports 2008/9 – 2011/12

Staff numbers and costs 
Average number of regular employees up 7% with staff costs up 13%
The numbers of full-time/regular employees whose pay including redundancy and taxable benefits, which fell between the range £60,000 – £220,000, was up 71% with cost up 57%
Source: National Trust Annual Reports 2008/9 – 2011/12

Health & safety and operational risk management
Conservation, access and the visitor experience can be compromised by adopting an approach to health and safety that is too risk-averse. We have adopted a sensible, pragmatic and proportionate approach that balances risks and benefits. Our approach aims to avoid unnecessary restrictions on access and to ensure that we do not detract from people’s enjoyment and sense of freedom and adventure. In 2011, we are delighted to report a 13% reduction in the total number of accidents. However, we have noted an increase of 30% in the number of more serious accidents that needed to be reported to the enforcing authorities. This takes us back to levels equivalent to 2008 and 2009….
Source: National Trust Annual Report 2011/12

Petersham Meadows under National Trust Management
In their second season the National Trust significantly reduced both public access to our meadows and the area available for grazing.  This disfigured the view from Richmond Hill, increased the level of weeds and generated danger zones where object could lay undetected by herdsman or volunteers.

The temporary electric fence was in place for the whole season, the pregnant cows and calves were under their normal weight when they left in November and the herdsman struggled on reduced hours to complete the extra work created by ‘rotating the grazing’.

The damaged milking parlour roof remained exposed to the record breaking summer rain throughout the season. The second public meeting produced only one new outcome; the External Affairs Consultant for the National Trust London and the Southeast set-up a blog to keep locals up-to-date on plans for the Meadows. Since the public meeting no entries have been made on the blog.

The National Trust has conducted a grassland survey, a biodiversity survey, a buildings survey and an archaeological survey of Petersham Meadows. They also conducted an unproductive PR exercise to pacify local objections to their management. Thoughts of recording an oral history were likewise proposed by their out-of-touch local manager. For the first time in living memory large agricultural equipment was used on the Meadows during the school summer holidays.
Membership of the National Trust and visitor numbers are up due to external conditions. NT finances need to be brought under control and serious accidents are just as frequent even under the new Operational Risk Team. The ‘Think Local’ strategy has produced some contradictory outcomes. For more than a decade Studland United Nudists have defended Studland from the machinations of the National Trust. In contrast one of the National Trust highlights of 2011/12 is the world-record for skinny dipping staged at Rhossili beach. The Petersham herd are considered too dangerous by the local National Trust manager. Just 65 miles away people and cows with calves mix without restriction in Winchelsea.

The majority of Petersham residents and the local council are very unhappy with the management of our Meadows and the low priority given to the welfare of the herd. The National Trust seems very pleased with their performance and think local people just don’t recognise the value of their contribution. It’s unfortunate that the National Trust don’t recognise the valuable contribution made by the people of Richmond, Petersham and Ham in preserving the heritage of the area.