Attention, animal lovers!
Mosey on down to Hampstead Heath next week, and you might just catch a glimpse of some rather unusual picnic-goers: a flock of five sheep grazing at The Tumulus, the ancient Roman monument between Parliament Hill and Kenwood House.
Comprised of Norfolk Horn and Oxford Down breeds from Mudchute Park & Farm, the flock will revive a ram-arkable (sorry) ancient tradition that saw these fluffy creatures act as the heath's living, breathing lawn-mowers. But in contrast to machines, which cut grass to a uniform length, grazing produces a variety of vegetation heights and types — improving the habitats of all the critters that call Hampstead Heath home.
Tuesday 27 August will be the first time sheep have grazed on the heath since the 1950s. At the moment, the scheme is just a week-long pilot, but if all goes well animal grazing could be extending to other parts of the heath, too.
"This idea came up at a Heath and Hampstead Society lecture given by painter Lindy Guinness, who showed paintings by John Constable of cattle grazing on the Heath", John Beyer, Vice- Chair of the Heath & Hampstead Society, said. "This romantic vision happily coincided with the aim of Heath staff to experiment with grazing rather than tractors to manage the landscape."