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Sea-faring sheepdog sails to work in boat off Suffolk coast

A sheepdog recruited by the National Trust to work rare breed sheep off the Suffolk coast hopes for calm seas and not ‘ruff’ waters as he sets sail on the commute to his new job.

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Credit: National Trust - Richard Scott
Credit: National Trust - Richard Scott
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Sea-faring sheepdog sails to work in boat off Suffolk coast

Sweep, a one-year old border collie, will travel to Orford Ness nature reserve by boat, where he will work some of the country’s rarest breeds of sheep.

 

Shepherd Andrew Capell, who runs the flocks on a remote spit of land off the Suffolk coast, said: “Sweep is used to being around sheep but the ferry crossing has taken a bit of getting used to. Thankfully, he seems to have found his sea legs.”

 

Breeds kept on the Ness include the Whitefaced Woodland, saved from extinction in the 1970s, the Manx Loaghtan which has fewer than 1,500 breeding females left in the country and the Herdwick.

 

Mr Capell added: “Sweep has plenty to learn so he will be in training for a while yet. As I always tell visitors to the Ness, it takes four years to train a sheepdog – one year for each leg!”


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Credit: National Trust - Richard Scott
Credit: National Trust - Richard Scott

“Having a sea-going sheepdog is a real talking point on the Ness and I am looking forward to introducing Sweep to visitors once we have reopened. He will no doubt be a popular member of staff and will help us get people engaged in important topics like conservation and the Countryside Code.”

 

With lambing season underway and nesting birds on the ground, the shepherd said he was keen to emphasise the importance of responsible dog behaviour at the coast and in the countryside.

 

“March to September is the season for ground-nesting birds, including rare species like the little tern, and we need people to help us protect this amazing wildlife by keeping dogs at a distance,” he said.

 

“There will also be livestock in the fields right now, so if you are out walking through farmland or near wildlife, please make sure your dog is on a lead.”

 

The Trust has worked with pet food maker Forthglade to produce a Canine Code to support responsible dog ownership.

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