A QUESTION mark is hanging over controversial plans to introduce a herd of cattle on a protected swathe of Eden fell.

Natural England admitted a move to introduce a ‘tradition-al’ breed of cattle on to Fell End Clouds, near Ravenstonedale, could be thwarted by local opposition.

The agency wants to see 100 hectares fenced off to stop sheep grazing the area, which is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Officals said intro-ducing a traditional herd of cattle — possibly Belted Galloways — would allow vege-tation on the protected limestone pavement to be grazed in an eco-friendly way.

But local residents claimed the introduction of cattle could make a public highway which runs across the fell a more dangerous place to walk. They also feared the cattle could affect the local water supply which drains off the fell.

They pointed out that the road was used regularly by walkers, cyclists and horse riders and many people visited the area with young children to picnic bes-de a scenic waterfall.

The concerns were raised at meetings the residents held on the fell with Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart and Natural England officials.

The agency said the oppositon had led to ‘some discussion whether or not we would will be putting cattle on the fell’.

A spokesman insisted that Fell End Clouds would still have to be fenced off.

“The SSSI is still vulnerable to overgrazing by sheep and this will still have to be addressed whether cattle are put there or not.”

The ultimate decision to fence off Fell End Clouds — which der-ives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘clods’ — rests with the Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The Natural England spokesman said: “The proposed work at The Clouds SSSI is part of a wider Higher Level Stewardship agreement in the area and we are very aware of the landscape and access aspects involved and recognise the important work that is carried out by local farmers. The fence line would be sited to have minimal impact on the landscape and scenic views and it would be removed in due course.”