Sheep may graze on Ridgewood green, says trust

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Concerns have been raised over plans to introduce sheep onto Ridgewood’s Millennium Green.

But Trustees say the land involved is registered farmland and originally the whole area would have been grazed.

Andrew Tyler, director of charity Animal Aid, warns: “To bring sheep into a park used almost exclusively by dog walkers, with electric fencing which will not protect them from dog attacks, is highly irresponsible.

“There is the real potential of a bloodbath here, and those misguided individuals who thought this was a good idea could find themselves in court.”

He warns the Green’s Trustees could face prosecution for animal cruelty.

Kate Fowler, the charity’s campaigns head, said: “I have spent much time talking to local dog walkers, none of whom supports this crazy idea. Almost all users of the Green are dog walkers. Take a walk there yourself and see how many people are there without a dog. You won’t find many.

“Most dog walkers are responsible but the Green is a very small space and there would be no way to avoid the sheep. It may be appropriate for sheep to be grazed on National Trust properties but it is not so in a small space frequented by 70 dogs a day. Many people say they will simply stay away.”

Mick Harker, chair of Trustees disagrees. He said: “The Millennium Green is an open space for the use of all the community, not just dog owners. Families picnic, people jog around, children ride bikes, schools visit and people just sit and enjoy the open space and sense of rural tranquillity in an urban fringe area. Around the edge we encourage Wealden flora and fauna to thrive including strong colonies of great crested newts, slow worms and woodpeckers.

“Introducing about 40 Herdwick sheep aims to bring back diversity through nomadic grazing. Sections of the Green will be fenced with electric mesh fences but in ways that will allow people to still enjoy large elements of the Green. The flock will be moved around, probably in five or six segments to ensure no area is overgrazed. Grazing is not cheaper than mowing but the results offer more ecological advantages.”

He said the shepherd is aware of his duty of care to his flock and has, since 2007, grazed similar spaces. “We are not anticipating a bloodbath as most of our daily dog visitors are responsible.”

But Kate said: “The law is absolutely clear. If someone puts animals into harm’s way, as is the case here, then they may be prosecuted should harm come to those animals.”