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AUGUST 2017

Sheep in Green Park

 

Sheep ... just outside Buckingham Palace!

Yes, really!  Sheep.  Almost in HM's front garden!  I'm sure she would have loved it if she'd seen them.  So how did it happen?  The Royal Parks Mission Invertebrate project planned a visit from some rare breed sheep whose job was to graze the wild flower meadows.  The researchers will look to see whether having the meadow grazed by sheep rather than cut by machinery will make a difference to the abundance of flowers and crucially, the abundance of pollinators and invertebrates.

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Machines cut the sward at a uniform length but different breeds of sheep pull and tug at the flowers and grasses as they are grazing.  They graze the sward at different lengths depending on their breed.  As they tug, they loosen the ripe seeds which fall into cracks which are opened in the earth by the tugging.  The sheep' feet also gently stir up the surface of the soil and loosen and trample it, which all has a positive effect on seed dispersal. 

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It was pretty surreal waiting for the horse-box that would bring the sheep to St James' Park.  Exciting to see it loom into view and to meet Tom the very wonderful shepherd.  Royal Parks staff put a fence up to keep the people out and the sheep contained.  They created a lovely shelter for Tom and the sheep if they felt like escaping from the gathering crowds.  Signs explained the project to the passers by.  

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Royal Parks staff are so amazing.  The St James' Park manager came to meet the press pack and Tom and the sheep.  We all wanted to take the sheep for a walk down towards Buckingham Palace.  He was incredibly supportive and even encouraged Tom to walk through HM's flower beds and herbaceous borders with his sheep!  And those sheep... such superstars!! Not one nibble on the Royal flowers, not one sneaky munch.  They just walked.  On their leads.  Like well-behaved, well-schooled dogs at Crufts.  It was so impressive!

And somewhere out there, there are a number of tourists who will remember the day that they saw a flock of sheep being walked on their leads past the flower beds just outside Buckingham Palace, London.  What a day!

Thank you Royal Parks.  Thank you Mission Invertebrate.  Thank you Tom and the sheep.  I had a fabulous day!