Sheep lend a helping hoof for butterfly conservation at Mill Hill, Shoreham

November 19, 2018

A flock of sheep are being employed to improve precious chalk grassland, vital for the survival of rare butterflies, in the South Downs National Park near Shoreham. The unusual looking sheep – called Jacobs – have two sets of horns and moved on to Mill Hill Local Nature Reserve, near Shoreham, on Friday 16 November.

The National Park are asking for people from the local community to volunteer to help keep an eye on Shoreham’s new woolly residents. Dog owners are also being asked to keep their animals under careful control as well as picking up and binning dog mess, which can carry diseases harmful to sheep.

Mill Hill, owned and managed by Adur District Council with the support of the South Downs National Park Authority, is one of the best spots to see butterflies in the National Park thanks to the high quality of its chalk grassland, which only exists because of centuries of grazing. Reintroducing grazing animals, like these Jacob sheep, is essential to maintain and improve plant diversity and support the butterflies and other insects that thrive on them.

Jasmine Owen, Assistant Ranger at the South Downs National Park, said:

“Chalk grassland is one of the most endangered habitats in the country but up to 30 different species of butterfly can be found at Mill Hill.

“We need local people’s support to help our sheep settle into their new home if we’re to keep butterflies such as silver spotted skipper, Adonis blue and wall thriving here for years to come.”

Councillor Emma Evans, Adur District Council’s Executive Member for Environment, said:

“Mill Hill is a real natural treasure which is accessible to everyone to learn more about our very special environment.

“I’m very pleased that the councils is working with the South Downs National Park on this project and I look forward to meeting the new additions very soon.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to become a lookerer, to keep an eye on the sheep’s health and numbers, please contact jasmine.owen@southdowns.gov.uk.