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What a Baa-rmy sight: Why is Hampstead Heath filled with sheep this week?

Sheep are coming to Hampstead Heath  (Pexels)
Sheep are coming to Hampstead Heath (Pexels)

Sheep will soon make their way back to Hampstead Heath as part of a trial to make the picturesque part of London more biodiverse.

The farmyard favourites will be coming to the capital as part of a grazing trial from Monday (September 11) to September 18, as part of the week-long biodiversity trial at the north London beauty spot.

The woolly creatures will be seen at the Heath and will be placed on the Heath extension where they will be munching and living.

The City of London Corporation, which owns, manages, and protects Hampstead Heath as a registered charity, is carrying out the scheme as a trial with the hope that the introduction of the animals will “maintain wildlife habitats rich in biodiversity”.

The flock of five rare-breed Norfolk Horn and Oxford Down ewes from Mudchute Farm will graze the anthill site on the Hampstead Heath Extension from 8am-7pm each day and will be stabled locally overnight.

Walkers will be able to spot them in the area from around 8.30am to 7pm — and the exact location near Hampstead Way can be tracked using what3words.com, using the search term ‘beams.grew.boom’.

Experts say sheep are the perfect animals to use because of their specific selective feeding and social behaviours which enable a patchwork of microhabitats to be created that can reduce the need for heavy machinery which can damage sensitive sites.

They are on loan from Mudchute City Farm as part of a conservation grazing partnership project with the City of London, the Heath and Hampstead Society, and Heath Hands with the idea a continuation from a 2019 scheme, when sheep grazed on the Heath for the first time since the 1950s.

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.”