COWS have returned to Studland Bay for the first time in 90 years to help improve the sand dune habits, writes Sam Greasley-Machin.

Ten Red Devon cattle, complete with smart collars which allow livestock managers to control them by phone, were introduced by the National Trust in June to boost biodiversity at Studland.

They are an imperative part of a project called Dynamic Dunescapes which plans to restore 7,000 hectares of coastal sand dunes all around the country.

Sally Wallington, a project officer leading the cattle introduction at Studland Bay, has been pleased with how they’ve adapted to their new surroundings.

She said: “Studland is one of the most biodiverse landscapes in the country, but, without intervention, its special habitats are gradually being lost.

“The cattle have been reintroduced to graze and to open up specific areas of the dunes, and are absolutely key to the future survival of nationally rare species.

It was during the 1930s that cattle last grazed the Studland landscape where bare sand comprised twenty percent of bay - that number is currently two percent.

Dorset Echo: One of the Red Devon cattle sporting its new GPS-enabled Nofence collarOne of the Red Devon cattle sporting its new GPS-enabled Nofence collar

The projects aim is to bring that number right back up to ten percent.

Cattle are considered to be an effective and natural way to maintain specific habits by grazing and trampling which helps keep vegetation under control.

Their hooves also create areas of disturbed ground by exposing bare sand which creates new habitats for species of insect to make their home.

To get the public interested the National Trust has created an ‘arty cow’ trail through the dunes where visitors were encouraged to find ten different life-sized cow boards hidden along trails.

Currently the cattle will be grazing in central parts of the dunes well away from the beach and the main paths where the vegetation is at its thickest.

Sally has been happy with how the herd have settled into life at their new home.

She added: “I’m delighted to see that over the past few weeks, they’ve settled into their new home really well.”

The project officer worked with the herd last year on nearby land to train them around dogs and people alongside training them with their collars.

The technology was originally developed for use on sheep and goats with the National Trust in Studland the first in the world to use it with cattle.