Page last updated at 15:04 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 16:04 UK

Urban shepherds flock to parkland

Herdwick sheep grazing in Brighton
Traditional breeds can survive on the low-nutrient grazing available

Volunteers are being recruited to help shepherd rare breeds of sheep being reintroduced to city parks.

Brighton and Hove City Council have allowed sheep to graze on some publicly-owned open spaces on the city's "urban fringes" for 10 years.

They now plan to extend the grazing space to Brighton's Wild Park and train more people to shepherd the flocks.

The council said the sheep provided the best and cheapest way to manage the area's chalk grassland.

Lisa Rigby, a countryside ranger employed by the council, said: "We started the grazing project 10 years ago on one site and we have been slowly increasing the number of sites and the size of the flocks.

"We're now upping the ante and we need to get more volunteers."

Dog walkers are our greatest ally
Lisa Rigby, countryside ranger

She hopes they will be able to recruit up to 20 new shepherds to help out in Wild Park, the city's largest Local Nature Reserve, which is surrounded by housing estates.

"The grazing is far more sustainable than mowing the sites and disposing of the cuttings can be very expensive," Ms Rigby said.

Traditional breeds such as Herdwicks and Southdowns are hired for the parks because they can survive on the low-nutrient grazing available.

They are also popular with visitors to the park.

Ms Rigby added: "Dog walkers are our greatest ally.

"Because they are out every day they appreciate the site being managed well, and they are animal lovers too."

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A report featuring Brighton's urban shepherds




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