02 June 2023

Giant hogweed firmly on the menu for a flock of hungry sheep at Inverurie

A flock of hungry sheep have been introduced to an Inverurie riverside to munch on giant hogweed. 

Aberdeenshire Council has been working closely with the local community for several years as to how to control this non-native invasive plant at Ury Riverside Park.

While the plant may look very impressive when fully grown, it is harmful to both the local environment and to people as it contains a toxic sap which, when it comes into contact with the skin, can cause severe burning and blistering of the skin when exposed to sunlight.

As it has done along many of our watercourses, giant hogweed has spread along the banks of the River Urie escaping from gardens where it was introduced as an ornamental plant. 

With its tendency to quickly smother native vegetation, the growth of the plant can actually lead to erosion of the riverbanks.

Judith Cox from Aberdeenshire Council’s Environment Planning team explains: “Since we took over the area of land along the floodplain of the River Urie - now known as the Ury Riverside Park - we have been working closely with the local group which tends the area to control the giant hogweed. 

“Standard means of control by spraying with glyphosate several times a year and repeated mowing have failed to have a significant impact on the growth. So in a bid to find a more sustainable and long-term solution to the control of giant hogweed, we have turned to some new recruits – a small flock of black-faced sheep.”

Due to the pigment in their skin, the sheep are not affected by the giant hogweed and have developed a real taste for it. 

An area of the Ury Riverside Park has now been fenced off using funding from the Scottish Government Nature Restoration Fund which has enabled the council to introduce sheep grazing with the help of a local shepherd. 

Judith continues: “The land being grazed includes land immediately in front of Uryside Primary School and the children have shown a keen interest in their new neighbours. 

“This project has been made possible thanks to close collaboration with the community and with several council services including Landscape Services, Access Officers, Countryside Rangers, Dog Wardens, Animal Welfare, Estates and Education – so thanks to all who have made it possible.”