90% of the heathland which once covered Surrey has been lost and all of it would have been maintained by grazing animals and the efforts of local residents; harvesting material for bedding, domestic fires and other needs, including cooking and herbal treatments.
The cow named ‘Heathland’ was decorated by street artist ATM, who specialise in large scale art works of threatened wildlife and landscapes. ATM comments;
“I was very keen to take part in Cow Parade Surrey for the RSPB, because I wanted to highlight the value of heathland. As with so many of our vanishing habitats, heathland was the product of a complex interplay between human activity and natural processes, where low-intensity livestock farming helped create ideal conditions for an abundance of plants, insects, birds and animals, as well as provide for human needs.
With the advent of industrial-scale agriculture and livestock farming we have lost the mosaic of year-round habitats and their food supplies, which is now causing the imminent extinction of so many of our once-common species. Like coppiced woodland, the landscape provided the raw materials for our needs, which were harvested in a sustainable way. In the paintings I tried to evoke something of the magical, spacious quality of heathland. Our heathlands were once vast and semi-wild places, and could be once again if we gave more space to them.”
One flank depicts a typical heath at dusk with a nightjar and field crickets. The other side is a daytime scene with a sand lizard, hobby and woodlark.
Farnham was planted with serried ranks of pines to support the war effort, but is now closer to its original state of prime heathland and for the first time since the 19th century it has the full suite of resident heathland specialists: Dartford warblers, nightjar, woodlark, tree pipit and stonechat, plus sand lizards, field crickets, silver-studded blue and grayling butterflies.
“Heathland” is one of 60 full size cows in CowParade Surrey which saw these unusual art exhibits dotted around Surrey during the summer for all to admire and find. The idea is that each cow is ‘sponsored’ by a business, school or charity and decorated by a local artist.
RSPB Farnham Heath warden Mike Coates says: “The churring of nightjar would have echoed round the Surrey Hills once upon a time. It’s now a rare sound in a few pockets of traditional heathland. Grazing animals played a big role in creating and maintaining the habitat that nightjar and other scarce wildlife need. “Heathland” the Cow Parade exhibit is a reminder of our links with the land and with nature.”
“Heathland” has been kindly sponsored for the RSPB by South West Trains. All of the CowParade cows will be auctioned off this autumn to raise money for charity, including the RSPB and the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, established in partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey to conserve and protect the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
If you would like to see Heathland and her 59 cow friends! Come along to the Surrey Hills Festival of Food and Drink on 3 September from 10am – 5pm at Coverwood Farm, Peaslake. It will be the only opportunity to see all the CowParade Surrey cows together as well as a fun family day out in the Surrey Hills. Discover a whole host of local food and drink, arts and crafts activities, live music and more…. Visit www.surreyhillsfest.co.uk to find out more & book tickets.