A flock of five rare-breed Norfolk Horn and Oxford Down ewes have arrived on Hampstead Heath today (September 11) – baa-rilliant news, right? The sheep will be happily grazing away on the Heath until next Monday (September 18) as part of a conservation grazing partnership project between the City of London, the Heath and Hampstead Society and Heath Hands.
The flock (who have been borrowed from Mudchute Farm) can be found on the Heath Extension on the north of the Heath between 8.30am-7pm each day. Londoners are invited to to pay a visit, chat to the volunteers about the project, and enjoy a rare opportunity to see some wildlife up-close-and-personal in the heart of the city.
This grazing trial is in an effort to make the area more biodiverse (or should I say, baa-odiverse?) and is a continuation from a 2019 scheme, when sheep grazed on the Heath for the first time since the 1950s. Conservation grazing is good for the environment as it can help maintain ecosystems and get rid of unwanted species in grassland, as well as making areas suitable for a wider range of wildlife.
Sheep are said to be the perfect animal to use for this because of their specific selective feeding and social behaviors. They enable microhabitats to be created and therefore reduce the need for land-damaging heavy machinery – who kn-ewe?
Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, and Queen’s Park Committee, William Upton KC, said: “Reintroduction of grazing like this has been an aspiration for many years, as it could play a key role in creating new rich and diverse habitats for the Heath’s wildlife. It also harks back to the Heath’s past, when farmers would bring their flocks to the site before taking them to market in the City.”
Vice-chair of the Heath and Hampstead Society, John Beyer added: “The sheep have the task of nibbling away at creeping cinquefoil and other plants smothering the anthills on that part of the Heath. We are all looking for ways to manage the Heath in a more ecological manner.”
The exact location of where the sheep will be grazing can be found here.