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The Return of the Cattle: May 2024

Today, the Sudbury Commons Land Charity marked the onset of the grazing season with the traditional Turning On ceremony, a cherished ritual held once every three years to commemorate the return of the cattle to the meadows. 

Mayor Jan Osborne of Sudbury undertook the honour of inspecting the lush grass before the cattle were released onto Freemen’s Great Common. The event saw a procession of mace bearers, freemen, charity trustees, and dedicated volunteer rangers crossing the meadows.

Nigel Eley, Chairman of the SCLC trustees, expressed his delight, saying, “This is a wonderful ceremony that shows Sudbury’s close connection with these ancient grazing meadows and the importance of the cattle in maintaining this magnificent place. The turning on of the cattle signifies the start of the grazing season and of the better weather. Over the weeks that follow more cattle will be turned onto the pastures to provide an iconic scene that has carried on for more than 800 years."


Historical records show that grazing livestock have been on either side of River Stour in Sudbury since the 13th Century. These lands have remained free from the use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides, relying solely on cattle grazing for management. This approach has fostered a unique and increasingly rare ecosystem for native plants and wildlife.

Preserving this delicate ecosystem hinges on the continuity of grazing practices. With the meadows designated as a Local Nature Reserve and a County Wildlife Site, the Sudbury Common Lands Charity is devoted to its commitment to safeguarding the area's natural richness.


Who is Sudbury Common Lands Charity?

The Sudbury Common Lands Charity was established in 1897 as the custodian of Sudbury's famous Common Lands.

Today, the charity is led by 16 trustees who aim to maintain the unique riverside landscape with nature in mind to encourage wildlife to flourish. They employ two full-time rangers who manage the land within environmentally sympathetic agricultural schemes without the use of chemicals. Through the rangers, the charity offers guided walks, talks and educational work with local schools and interest groups to inform everyone about the value of the area. Contributions towards the continued maintenance and management of this special landscape are welcomed in the form of volunteer commitment, donations and legacies.

They also earn income by maintaining nearby cherished green spaces including Friar's Meadow, The Valley Trail, Cornard Riverside, Shawlands Local Nature Reserve and Cornard Country Park. To find out more about the charity please visit their website:


Enjoying Sudbury Water Meadows with your Dog

Dogs must ALWAYS be kept under control around cattle and wildlife.

Sudbury Water Meadows are not a public park, but farmlands and these must be grazed with cattle. The law states that all dogs should be on a fixed lead near livestock. We want everyone to enjoy our Water Meadows, please help us achieve this.


If there are any injured animals, please report to the Ranger immediately on 07971 665870 or to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. Don’t leave it to someone else.  


We also encourage everyone to pick up their dog poo as we come into Summer with more and more people and animals using the Water Meadows. Please bag it and bin it. Bins are available. Please don’t fling bags of poo in the hedges or leave them anywhere other than in a bin. Bacteria and parasites in dog poo are a health hazard, especially to children.


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