Cattle grazing in Golden Valley is a big deal – Ashridge Park was laid out in the 1600’s and emparked for deer rather than sheep or cattle. Today we have an ancient breed of cattle introduced to Monument Field next to the Alford Cross in Little Gaddesden.
The White Park cattle are an ancient hardy breed dating back to Roman times at least , originating from the Aurochs which roamed the ancient forests before the dawn of history.
Monument Field has been unused for decades, part of which is wooded with an under-story of brambles, so the wood pasture will suit the seven strong herd down to the ground – the deer do not frequent this fenced off area. Cattle are naturally herbivores rather than grazers, and in historical texts the breed was often referred to as “White Forest” as it mostly frequented remote wooded areas of Britain. The herd will take out the blackberries and and tree branches that are within their reach – in past centuries holly leaves which are very nutritious were fed to cattle in winter time.
A herd of cattle reflectively chewing the cud is well suited to Ashridge Park reminiscent of past centuries when they were reared and domesticated as ornamental animals by the Crown and the aristocracy.
Our cattle are part of the Hoo herd reared by the Hargreaves in Little Gaddesden. The breed came close to extinction during the mid-20th Century, and are still rare today, with just four herds at Whipsnade, Woburn in Bedfordshire, Cadzow in Scotland and Dynevor in the Brecon Beacons. White Park beef is lean yet well marbled and when hung properly for three weeks or so, shrinks very little on cooking and has an excellent flavour.
The wild Chillingham herd, close cousins of the White Park have been at their ancestral home in Northumberland for over seven hundred years – let’s hope the Ashridge herd stay a while!