Animal trouble part one: why sheep are like beetles

Tiffany Daneff / 26 February 2015

The ravenous pregnant ewes are putting on a show for gardening editor Tiffany Daneff, and Daisy the cocker spaniel is not letting anything get between her and the local rabbit population.

We called this the Sheep Garden because it was surrounded by sheep – if not sometimes filled with the walking duvets which fancied the more elaborate greenery on our side of the wall.

It was all rather jolly, waking up to the sound of bleating beneath the window. That was until they trampled the newly planted flower beds.

After that the joke soured so we had the old gate fixed and wired up the gaps by the low wall. Now the sheep have to content themselves with just looking.

At this time of year the gravid ewes are ravenous and the farmer has to supplement their diet of sickly yellow sun starved grass. It’s impressive how they recognise his vehicle from way away. The desperate bleating starts up and, when I look up from the desk and out over the garden to the big field opposite, they’re on the move. The noise is magnificent. These sheep mean business.

Once the gate is open – which requires some rearranging of the gathered throng - the farmer drives across the field leaving a trail of feed in his wake. In seconds the line has been filled out in black and white: the dominant white of hungry ewes and the shifting outline in black made by the scavenging rooks. So large do they become that sometimes the ewes cannot get up. “If you do see one on its back,” said Robert, the farmer, the other day, “please could you roll it over.” Funny, that they should be like beetles – quite unable to get up by themselves.

Recently though, it’s not the sheep but the dog that has been doing the damage. Daisy, a working cocker, is partial to a bit of bunny hunting and with the rabbit season almost upon us the scent in the lower garden has become most tantalising. She is, it must be said, a very good rabbit catcher. Last year she nabbed half a dozen from the burrows in and around the perimeter of the garden – with a top score of three in one morning.

Keeping down the rabbit numbers is crucial. Last year the rabbits destroyed all the new spring growth in the borders. It was so bad I had a special rabbit proof fence and gate installed to stop them being able to reach the flower beds.

This move had unintended consequences: Daisy discovered that she too was kept out of the top garden by the rabbit gate. Which was fine - until she also discovered that she could scramble up on to the low growing lonicera hedge and walk along the top of it until she reached the rabbit proof fence and gate. Here she pauses before jumping the four foot drop into the top garden. Like so much in life this proved hugely entertaining for a brief while and then I noticed that the hedge was being systematically destroyed.

I am not a fan of lonicera, ugly scratchy stuff with about as much charm as molehill in the middle of the lawn (of which more next week). But it does keep out the wind. At the moment its future still hangs in the balance. But I am beginning to wonder whether Daisy has inadvertently given me the excuse I need to grub the whole thing up and replace it with something a lot more fun?

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit for more info. 

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