Sheep return to graze on Hampstead Heath

Sheep will graze on Hampstead Heath from 11-18 September as part of a week-long biodiversity trial at the iconic north London open space.

The City of London Corporation, which owns, manages, and protects Hampstead Heath as a registered charity, is trialling the use of grazing to maintain wildlife habitats rich in biodiversity. 

Through their selective feeding and social behaviours, sheep enable a patchwork of microhabitats to be created and can reduce the need for heavy machinery which can damage sensitive sites.

A flock of five rare-breed Norfolk Horn and Oxford Down ewes from Mudchute Farm will graze the anthill site on the Hampstead Heath Extension from 8am-7pm each day and will be stabled locally.

This follows a successful trial in 2019, when sheep grazed on the Heath for the first time since the 1950s.

The project is a partnership between the City Corporation, the Heath & Hampstead Society, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, and Heath Hands.

The London Natural History Society has surveyed plant life in the area to be grazed, and will survey again afterwards, so that ecological change can be measured. 

Hampstead Heath forms a key part of a network of open spaces owned, funded, and managed by the City Corporation as registered charities. 

It is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and receives over nine million visits annually.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee, William Upton KC, said:

“Reintroduction of grazing like this has been an aspiration for many years, as it could play a key role in creating new rich and diverse habitats for the Heath’s wildlife.

"It also harks back to the Heath’s past, when farmers would bring their flocks to the site before taking them to market in the City.”

Vice-Chair of the Heath and Hampstead Society, John Beyer said:

“The sheep have the task of nibbling away at Creeping Cinquefoil and other plants smothering the anthills on that part of the Heath. We are all looking for ways to manage the Heath in a more ecological manner.”

The City Corporation manages over 11,000 acres of open space in London and southeast England, including Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches, and over 180 smaller sites in the Square Mile, investing over £38m a year.

The City Corporation’s green spaces, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve.

They include important wildlife habitats, Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves.

They remove around 16,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere a year, equivalent to 44% of the City Corporation’s annual carbon footprint and are protected from being built on by special legislation.


Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The Heath & Hampstead Society is a charity which works closely with the Corporation to protect Hampstead Heath as an open space which welcomes visitors and cherishes nature. The Heath & Hampstead Society – Fighting to preserve the wild and natural state of the Heath (heathandhampstead.org.uk)