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News Herdwick sheep make the Forest their home

Herdwick sheep make the Forest their home

A local grazier has introduced a flock of Herdwick sheep to graze a special conservation grazing site within the Forest of Dean.

This conservation grazing project, taking place in an area being named as ‘Birch Wood Green’, is located near the lake close to Gloucestershire College, along from Ruspidge Halt.  This is a joint project with Foresters’ Forest working with Forest of Dean District Council (FODDC), Forestry England and local grazier Kate Batt.  Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust are also on hand to support this project, as they also manage other Foresters’ ForestConservation Grazing projects taking place on reserves within the Forest.

This site is being used to help set Kate up with her own flock of sheep in the Forest.  In time, Kate (pictured with the sheep) says she hopes to run sheep in the traditional Commoning way. 

Sheep will be grazed at Birch Wood Green most of the year to maintain the open habitat.  This will benefit a range of wildlife species such as reptiles, birds and butterflies, who it is hoped will increase in numbers as the habitat is grazed. In the past, most of our countryside was often grazed by native ponies, cattle and sheep, but this is now rare. Conservation grazing is being reintroduced to nature reserves in the Forest of Dean to restore and maintain open spaces.

The Herdwick is a breed of domestic sheep native to the Lake District. This breed has been chosen for Birch Wood Green because they are known for their robust health and the way they live on forage (grass and other wild vegetation). They tend to have a strong sense of belonging about the areas they roam so they will be suited to living outdoors in the Forest.

Whilst the sheep graze the site, local residents are asked to view the sheep from a distance, to keep to the existing walking trails in Ruspidge Halt, whilst also ensuring that dogs are kept on leads when near to the grazing site and, as with any animal in the Forest, they are not to be fed. 

We welcome the sheep and will keep you updated about this special conservation grazing project!