Green Park Grazing Week is run in partnership with:
Have you met our woolly lawnmowers? Livestock grazing is a great way for conservationists and land managers to improve the biodiversity of meadows and grasslands.
Each summer for the past few years, The Royal Parks’ Mission: Invertebrate has joined forces with Mudchute Park and Farm and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to graze rare breed sheep and cattle on The Green Park’s wildflower meadow, helping to transform this habitat into a des res for central London wildlife.
Many of our human visitors may be unaware that this busy park is home to several wildflower meadow habitats that provide important food and shelter for bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other invertebrates, as well as many birds and small mammals.
During Green Park Grazing Week, rare breed sheep commute in daily from Mudchute Park and Farm on the Isle of Dogs to graze our meadow just a short walk from the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The traditional native and rare breed sheep are able to chew and digest the tough, hardy plants that can take over pastures and prevent other more delicate species from establishing, diversifying the food sources available for invertebrates. The animals also pass seeds and trample them into the soil, helping meadows to regenerate year after year. By improving the diversity of plants that grow, we hope to attract a wider range of pollinators and other invertebrates, which in turn, will help support birds, small mammals and other wildlife up the food chain.
Our fleecy friends are a mix of breeds including Whitefaced Woodland, Oxford Down, and Norfolk Horn.
When this project started in 2017, our experts conducted an invertebrate survey of the park. We aim to resurvey in a couple of years to record the difference that grazing has had on invertebrate biodiversity in the meadow. At the same time, our Ecology Team are monitoring the vegetation in the park, measuring any changes in the plant biodiversity brought about by our living lawnmowers.
About the animal breeds
During grazing week we will be showcasing a number of different breeds of sheep:
Oxford Down sheep are the largest ‘down’ breed. The breed was created in the 1830s by crossing Cotswold rams with Hampshire Down and Southdown ewes. They are easily recognisable by their dark faces and white woolly fleeces. They are a multi-purpose breed and are bred for both their meat and wool.
The Norfolk Horn is one of the oldest sheep breeds in the UK, as it is believed to have descended from ancient Saxon black faced sheep in Northern Europe. Both sexes of this hardy breed are horned, with a short white fleece, and black legs and face free from wool.
The Whitefaced Woodland, one of the largest hill sheep breeds, originated on the borders between Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire. They have a fine white fleece, with white faces free from markings. Both sexes are horned, with the rams horns being much more spiralled.
The history of grazing in the Royal Parks
Sheep were once a common sight across the central Royal Parks. View our gallery of historic photographs and articles to find out more.