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 three 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 and cattle 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 cattle and 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, Norfolk Horn, Black Wensleydale and Southdown sheep. We’ll also have Dexter cows popping in, as cattle can eat greater volumes and rip up rather than nibble plants, opening up pasture more quickly than sheep. They also tend to prefer different varieties to their woolly counterparts, making them perfect grazing companions.
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 cattle and sheep:
Dexter cattle originate from the South-West of Ireland and are the smallest native breed of cattle in the UK. They are a dual-purpose breed which means they are bred for both their meat and milk. Dexter cattle have thick curved horns, but can be polled where they have no horns. The most common colour for Dexters is black, but they can also be red and dun.
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 Southdown sheep breed originates from the South Downs in the South of England where they roamed for many hundreds of years. It is the oldest ‘downland’ breed and is also the smallest. Wool covers much of their legs and face, which makes the sheep look quite like a teddy bear.
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 Wensleydale sheep is a breed of Longwool sheep from the Yorkshire Dales. Wensleydales are renowned for their long lustrous fleece and tall stature. Black Wensleydales occur as a result of a double recessive black gene, and the colour can vary from silver to jet black.
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 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.
Mission: Invertebrate Summer Roadshows
During Green Park Grazing Week we will also be bringing our ever-popular Mission: Invertebrate roadshow to the park:
|Tuesday 20 August||Green Park||Central - near sheep pen||11am - 3pm|
|Thursday 22 August||Green Park||Central - near sheep pen||11am - 3pm|
The roadshows will provide a selection of free activities designed to get you and your children up close, hands on and engaged with the invertebrates that live in our city. Learn about their habitats, the vital jobs they do, and what we can all do to help them thrive.
With critter crafts, bug hunting, and invertebrate missions galore, as well as interactive storytelling from one of our professional storytellers, there’s fun activities for everyone to enjoy.
For details of other roadshow and activity dates during the summer keep an eye on the Mission: Invertebrate section of the website.