Maydencroft Longhorns In Nature

St Ippolyts Parish Council Magazine 2023

The Maydencroft herd was established in 1984 by Robert and Frances Williams. Seeing these beautiful, gentle beasts as a boy instilled a love of the breed in Robert, who helped re-establish English Longhorns and pioneered them for Conservation Grazing.

Today, Tom Williams is proud to have picked up the mantle and now has a herd of 200 Longhorns throughout Hertfordshire. They graze their own pasture, and on behalf of clients who recognise the breed's great strength in promoting diversity of wildlife - the cattle have even grazed in Holland Park, London.

The herd acquired celebrity status following their appearance on primetime TV, when John Torode visited the farm and showcased the Maydencroft Longhorn herd as part of the BBC's Great British Food Revival series. Harry Hill then made a feature on the show in his TV programme, including a life-size model of one of the cows! They have also had multiple features on BBC Countryfile over the years.

English Longhorns are a historic breed dating back as far as the 1600's, possibly the oldest recorded British breed; they were big enough to be draught oxen, with rich milk and superlative beef. They are large, beautifully coloured brindled animals with sweeping long horns. They are renowned for their calm temperament and are gentle-natured. At the start of the 1980's, there were fewer than 200 breeding Longhorn in the world, making this historic English breed a rare sight. But thanks to dedication from farmers who believed in heritage native breeds, English Longhorn are now found throughout the British Isles.

As a heritage breed, they are less fussy about what they eat than modern commercial breeds. With their varied diet, Longhorn are excellent for conservation grazing on natural grassland, unimproved with chemical fertilisers. They keep scrub and weeds under control allowing a rich variety of plant life to thrive, and the eventual bioproduct of this is delicious slow-grown, high-welfare pasture fed beef.

Cattle are different from horses and sheep as they graze with a tearing action using their tongues, meaning they do not feed too close to the ground. This grazing action also helps create microhabitats by leaving tussocks that support small mammals and invertebrates. In addition, their trampling and light poaching creates bare patches of ground, which aids the regeneration of wildflowers from seed. This grazing supports essential habitat for reptiles, amphibians, and birds because it gives the grassland structural diversity. The dung from the cattle also creates a food source for many species, including bats, as well as dung beetles.

The Maydencroft herd's historical significance, coupled with its local importance, doesn't just have a positive impact on nature in the parish. Many other locations across Hertfordshire are managed by the team too, such as Oughtonhead Common in Hitchin, Danesbury Park in Welwyn, Bricket Wood Common, Pishiobury Park in Sawbridgeworth, Panshanger Park in Hertford and the county's only National Nature Reserve, Broxbourne Woods.

They can start to make a mess in winter so up to 200 of them come inside to the new barn at Maydencroft Manor if you ever hear mooing when walking along Maydencroft Lane. The Maydencroft team hopes you enjoy seeing this special native breed in St Ibbs Park and other fields across the parish and they thank their local landlords, all of which are residents of the parish. If you would like to learn more about the longhorn cattle, visit and to see the wider services that Maydencroft offers to support the environment, visit the rest of this website.