Sheep to return to Hampstead Heath for the first time in over 50 years

Sheep are set to return to graze on Hampstead Heath in London for the first time since the 1950s, as part of a new project to boost wildlife habitats naturally.

A flock of sheep in a field

The flock will consist of five Oxford Down and Norfolk Horn sheep which will graze at the ancient Roman monument ‘The Tumulus’.  Volunteers will monitor the sheep, which will be fenced in, and educate visitors about the project.

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Plans to reintroduce sheep to the Heath have been ongoing over the past decade, with the hope that they will function as ‘natural lawnmowers’.

A shepherd and his sheepdog with their flock on Hampstead Heath
A shepherd and his sheepdog with their flock on Hampstead Heath circa 1945 (Credit: Getty)

Grazing is known to play a major role in boosting species-rich wildlife habitats and reducing the use of machinery. Unlike mowing, grazing produces a mosaic of vegetation heights and types, improving ecological sites for species including amphibians, small mammals, invertebrates and wildflowers.

Sheep on the beach at Camusdarach, Arisaig, Highlands, Scotland, United Kingdom, Europe

If the week-long pilot is successful, the City Corporation says animal grazing could be expanded to other areas of the Heath.

Karina Dostalova, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath Management Committee, said:“The Heath has a long history of sheep grazing with farmers taking their flock to the site before taking them to market in the City.

“Grazing could play a key role in creating new rich and diverse habitats for the wildlife found on the Heath.

“Reintroduction of grazing has been an aspiration for many years, and we are glad to be working with our partners on this exciting opportunity.”

The sheep are due to be return on 27th August, and the project will be organised by the City of London Corporation in partnership with the Heath & Hampstead Society, Heath Hands, Historic England, Mudchute Park & Farm and Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

A small flock of Oxford Down Sheep
A flock of Oxford Down sheep, one of the breeds that will be returning to the Heath (Credit: Getty)
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Hampstead Heath is one of London’s most popular open spaces, situated just six kilometres from Trafalgar Square and receives over nine million visits a year.