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April 5 2016.

Visitors to Newhaven Fort have been greeted by some new woolly recruits to the staff team – a small flock of Herdwick Sheep. 

The human staff at the Fort have been battling the scrubby undergrowth on the ramparts with strimmers and mowers for the past few years and decided that it was time to adopt a more natural approach to the problem. Enter Sussex Wildlife Trust. Sussex Wildlife Trust grazes many of its 32 nature reserves with its own cattle and sheep, because they help to maintain optimal habitat for the many rare plants and invertebrates found on these special sites, and so the management at the Fort approached them to see if they could help.

James Power, Head of Land Management for Sussex Wildlife Trust said: "Grazing by sheep is essential if the good condition of our reserves is to be maintained and we have found that Herdwick sheep are ideally suited to this work. This breed is particularly good at helping to control scrubby species such as Bramble that can encroach on to grassy banks at the expense of wildflowers and rare invertebrates. This is why we recommended them to Wave Leisure when we were asked to help out."

The Fort is now home to four of Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Herdwick flock, who have made a great start in their new occupation.

Kath Dudley, Visitor Services Officer at Newhaven Fort said: "The sheep have made a noticeable difference to the areas they have been grazing so far and the response from our visitors has been fantastic. They’re a lot quieter than strimmers too."

The sheep will remain at the Fort throughout the year and will be moved around the site to make sure that all areas benefit from their presence.