August 28, 2019 / 12:53 PM / 18 days ago

Sheep reintroduced to London's Hampstead Heath after 60 years

FILE PHOTO: A woman jogs through morning fog in Hampstead Heath in London September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall

LONDON (Reuters) - Sheep have been reintroduced to London’s Hampstead Heath for the first time since the 1950s to test an environmentally friendly way of maintaining the area. 

Five sheep will be allowed to graze for a week-long trial period which could be extended if it proves successful.

As an alternative to mowing, grazing allows for greater biodiversity, ensuring a suitable habitat for wildlife including amphibians, small mammals, and wildflowers.

Situated in North London and covering 790 acres, Hampstead Heath is one of the most popular green spaces in London, receiving over 9 million visitors a year.

The sheep will graze at The Tumulus on the heath, an ancient Roman monument that folklore claims is the gravesite of Celtic queen Boudica.

John Beyer, vice chair of the Heath & Hampstead Society, said the plan was inspired by the romantic vision of cattle grazing on the heath depicted in 19th century works by artist John Constable.

Karina Dostalova, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath management committee, said reintroduction of grazing had been an aspiration for many years.

“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,” she said.

Sheep were often seen in London’s parks in the 20s and 30s as a way to keep down mowing costs, and as an eco-friendly option it may be coming back into fashion. In 2018, sheep roamed around Green Park in the center of London as part of a conservation effort.

Reporting by Molly Millar; editing by Stephen Addison

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