London is perhaps more commonly associated with pigeons than sheep, but for one week the city’s centre will host some rather softer creatures.
That’s because rare breed sheep are grazing in the heart of London as part of a wildlife scheme to help a flower meadow and the insects that rely on it.
The sheep are part of a conservation trial taking place in The Green Park, next to Buckingham Palace, where they will spend the week grazing one of the park’s wildflower meadows.
It is hoped the trial will help maintain a variety of plant species and prevent coarse grasses taking over, encouraging a greater variety of pollinators and other insects that thrive in wildflower meadows and play an important role in food chains.
The scheme is part of The Royal Parks Mission: Invertebrate project which has received £600,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery to support the capital’s grassland creatures, and is teaming up the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and Mudchute Farm for the trial.
Rare breeds of sheep grazing in the park include Oxford Downs, Whitefaced Woodlands, Southdown’s and Manx Loaghtan.
Unlike modern commercial breeds of sheep which rely on supplementary feeding by farmers, the rare breed sheep thrive on a variety of different plants, eating the tougher grass and trampling in the seeds from the wildflowers in the meadow, the experts said.
Dr Alice Laughton, who is leading the project for The Royal Parks, 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.
“We’re delighted that People’s Postcode Lottery recognises the important role of invertebrates and that the players are helping us to inspire the UK public.”