Friendly flock of Hebridean sheep helping biodiversity efforts at Warwickshire country park - The Rugby Observer

Friendly flock of Hebridean sheep helping biodiversity efforts at Warwickshire country park

Rugby Editorial 27th Jan, 2024   0

A FRIENDLY flock of Hebridean sheep have made themselves indispensable to biodiversity efforts at a Warwickshire country park.

The wooly willing workers have become a focal point of grassland management at Ryton Pool Country Park over the last three years.

The sheep have have become a focal point of grassland management at Ryton Pool Country Park.

Since 2020, park rangers have worked with local conservation grazier Dale Huddlestone and his family to manage the meadows to benefit the greatest range of species possible.

In 1973, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust identified Hebridean sheep as a breed in danger of extinction. Only a few parkland flocks remained, and there were no sheep discovered in their homelands of the west of Scotland. But today, thanks to graziers like Dale, the Hebridean is a success story having been taken off the Rare Breed Watch List.




The sheep now have an important role to play in engineering biodiversity at Ryton Pools.

A spokesperson for the site said: “Our Hay Meadow is managed for its wildflowers, producing stellar displays throughout the spring and summer. During late summer, the meadow is harvested for hay, and the sheep then graze the meadow over the course of the winter, keeping the grasses in check until the flowers begin to return in the spring.”


They said Hebridean sheep were ideal for the job because they don’t trample the ground excessively and are defined by their pasture grazing habits, readily eating weeds such as thistles, brambles and saplings.

They added: “In the spring, once the meadow reaches about 5cm in height, the Hebridean’s winter work is done.

“The sheep are then moved onto our second and third meadows where grasslands are managed for invertebrates. They graze these meadows in a patchwork fashion, leaving some areas of grass taller and others shorter which benefits a range of invertebrates.”

The Ryton Pools Country Park team is on the cusp of signing a new Biodiversity Net Gain agreement, funds from which will allow improvements to the second meadow.

Dale with his winning sheep.

Dedicated grazier Dale can often be seen on-site tending to the sheep. Last year, one of Dale’s Ryton Pools animals won best Ram at a national show, which Dale puts down to the quality of the pasture the sheep are on.

Warwickshire County Council’s environment spokeswoman Coun Heather Timms, a regular visitor to the county’s country parks, said: “The characterful Hebridean Sheep at Ryton Pools are an excellent example of protecting wildlife, supporting rangers in their vital work promoting and protecting biodiversity.

“I hope many residents will take the opportunity to visit the park, meet the sheep, and chat to our rangers about their latest projects to look after our county’s stunning green spaces.”

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