A herd of Dexter cows has found an innovative way to safeguard an Iron Age hill fort while enjoying the sound of music.

Little Doward hill fort in the UK is owned by the Woodland Trust, which is combatting encroaching vegetation and invasive species threatening the fort and its surrounding 82ha of woodland.

The charity has enlisted the help of a small herd of Dexter cows, known for their diverse plant and berry diet, to protect and restore the fort.

Virtual fencing

The cows have been trained to associate musical beats, transmitted through solar-powered collars, with a virtual fence.

This innovation eliminates the need for traditional wooden posts and rails.

Benefits for nature and restoration

Site manager for the Woodland Trust Richard Brown said: "This is a win all around for the site. For nature and restoration, the cows are ideal grazers across a wide range of species.

"They help spread seeds through their dung and gently move the soil around, but without destruction.

“The cows are able to stop vegetation engulfing the site and the virtual fencing technology, via an app, helps us to move the herd around - in effect, moving the fence,” Richard said.

He also assured visitors that the Dexter cows are friendly, adding: "If people do visit, don't be scared - they may just want to come up to you and say hello."


Little Doward Woods, although containing a small ancient section, serves as a crucial habitat. It offers refuge to many unique plants and animals, some of which are found only in isolated pockets across the UK.

The woods are part of the Wye Valley special area of conservation (SAC) and Upper Wye Gorge site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

The presence of ancient trees in the wood sustains beetles, including the rare Cosnard's net-winged beetle, which relies on dead or decaying wood.

Historical significance

Preserved 18th-century limestone kilns near the river provide a glimpse into the region's industrial past.

In the 1950s, the Forestry Commission planted portions of the wood with conifer species, including a distinctive pattern of larches and cedars spelling out ER to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.