Monday 21st August 2017- By
Sheep are to graze in London’s Royal Parks for the first time since the 1930s as part of a project to revive Britain’s wildflower meadows supported by Prince Charles.
From Monday, commuters crossing Green Park on their way to work will notice a small herd of rare sheep chomping through the tougher tufts of grass.
It is hoped this natural conservation method will tame the non-picturesque, dominant plants within one of the park’s two wildflower meadows, allowing flowers to flourish and a rich diversity of invertebrates to grow.
If successful, grazing sheep could soon become a common sight in central London, with provisional plans in place to introduce flocks to Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Richmond Park.
Most grasslands in the UK eventually becomes dense scrub or woodland if left ungrazed.
The six sheep starting their week-long stint on Monday have been selected because, unlike modern commercial breeds, they can survive on the natural vegetation alone and do not rely on supplementary feed.
With breeds including an Oxford Downs, Whitefaced Woodlands and Southdown’s, they will be be protected by both a wooden and electric fence, with a shepherd on guard during the days.
A third of the park’s wildflower area will be kept free of sheep in order to compare the difference they make.
The initiative is part of the Royal Parks Mission Invertebrate project, which has received £600,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery.
Dr Alice Laughton, who is leading the project, said: “we are very excited to be carrying out the first sheep grazing trial in The Royal Parks.”
“By increasing the biodiversity of the park grasslands, we hope to encourage the invertebrates that inhabit meadow grasslands to flourish, and it will help plan how we manage the parks in the future.”
A similar cattle grazing project is due to take place in Richmond Park in October, where the animals will be kept secure by an “invisible fence” involving electrically activated collars.
Earlier this year the Prince of Wales urged every farmer in the country to plant at least one wildflower meadow on which cattle or sheep can live.
As well as eating away the dominant plants that can eventually overrun a meadow, they trample in seeds that have dropped from the flowers.