Hampstead Heath groups plot return of grazing cows to north London

One of John Constable's Branch Hill Pond paintings - complete with cows drinking from the pond. Pict

One of John Constable's Branch Hill Pond paintings - complete with cows drinking from the pond. Picture: Public Domain / Google Art Project - Credit: Archant

Cows could return to Hamsptead Heath before the end of the year.

After artist Lindy Guinness used her Springett lecture last year – ostensibly about the Heath artist John Constable – to moot the idea of bringing cattle back to the Hampstead Heath, the Heath and Hampstead society has grabbed the bull by the horns and is hopeful of making what seemed a far-fetched flight of fancy into a reality.

The society’s Heath committee chair John Beyer told Heathwatch members were working with Lindy, the City of London and the Rare Breeds Society on the possibility of reintroducing cows to the Heath.

He said: “We have been working to see if we can bring cows back. It’s a lovely idea.

“We are thinking it’d probably be for two or three weeks a year, and we’d get school visits, that kind of thing. It’d be educational.”

“It’s in the early planning stages now, and this year might be too soon but we’ll see.”

Lindy – the Marchioness Dufferin and Ava, who is related by marriage to Lord Iveagh (who bequeathed Kenwood and its art collection to the nation) – has a dairy herd on her Irish estate, where she makes her own award-winning yoghurt.

Most Read

“I breed, cherish and paint my cows in Ireland,” she said. “It caused a terrible stir when I showed drawings and paintings of cows by Constable during the lecture.

“In his time the Heath was full of groups of happy cows in clusters under trees and having grazing cattle was a good way to conserve the Heath.

“I asked how many would like to have cows back on the Heath and so many said yes.”

Lindy said her own head cow farmer had offered advice to the group plotting the bovine comeback.

“I rang him up and suggested that people in Hampstead were interested in having cows. There have been lots of meetings – they’re beginning to decide where they can put these cows.

“We are now in discussion with the Rare Breed Society and City of London Corporation and the people in Hampstead to see if an area of the Heath can be paddocked off.

“I hope once more it will be inhabited by cloven folk [that can] be models once more to the wandering artist.

“It would be a fine legacy to Constable and maybe they could name a paddock after him.”