Page last updated at 14:07 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sheep to graze hillside reserve

Graeme Eusden
Graeme Eusden released the sheep at West Hanger

Sheep have been introduced to a Surrey hillside to stop the chalk grassland from being choked by scrub.

Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) said livestock were traditionally used to graze West Hanger, near Shere.

Previously SWT used tractor mowers on the hillside, known as Mother Webb's Corner, but cuttings acted like a fertiliser and encouraged the scrub.

Farmer Graeme Eusden has loaned the Trust five of his female Mule-cross sheep to graze the reserve.

The sheep are checked every day to ensure they have enough to eat and will be brought off the hillside, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, if they run out of food.

"Chalk grassland is an important and rare habitat and it's vital that we protect it," said SWT ranger Leo Jennings.

"We're looking forward to seeing an improvement in the quality of the habitat at West Hanger and the return of the many special plant and animal species that had been choked by scrub."

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