There’s news at the Farm Park. Really big news. We’re excited to tell you that our latest rare breed herd has made history, with the news that Albion cattle have officially been brought back from the brink. After a long campaign Albions have been recognised as a distinct British breed for the first time since the 1960s, when they were declared extinct. The decision means the Rare Breeds Survival Trust will include the remaining 170 Albion cattle in its annual Watch List of native and traditional breeds, giving them new status and a level of protection with yearly monitoring of the registered cow population. If you’ve already met the Bemborough herd you’ll know they’re a lovely, docile pale-skinned breed with a lot of grace and a delicate look about them. Conservation is at the heart of everything we do here and when I heard about the fight by a small number of dedicated breeders to put the Albion back on the rare breeds map, I knew I needed to help. So I brought a bull and seven breeding cows to the Farm Park, to establish our own foundation herd. Among them is the undisputed star of the group. She’s a lovely cow with a white marking on her head in the shape of a heart, so we just had to call her Valentine.
Her family tree, and the ancestry of all the existing Albions, goes back to the early 1900s when blue-coloured cattle were first developed to graze the hills of west Derbyshire. That’s the reason they’re sometimes called Blue Albions or even Bakewell Blues, after the former spa town in the Peak District. But fortune wasn’t on their side and breed numbers were devastated by a combination of the agricultural depression, changes in farming fashions and, worst of all, outbreaks of the dreaded Foot and Mouth Disease in 1923 and again in 1967. It’s only thanks to a small number of never-say-die enthusiasts scattered around England, including in the Albion’s home county of Derbyshire, that we’ve got a breed at all.
I’m thrilled to have played a role in restoring a part of British farming heritage, delighted to be telling their remarkable story on TV and very proud to show them off to everyone who visits the Cotswold Farm Park. Welcome home to the all mighty Albion – the ultimate comeback kid.