Meet the sea-going sheepdog that travels to Orford Ness by boat

Andrew Capell with Sweep, the border collie responsible for rounding up sheep on the Orford Ness

Andrew Capell with Sweep, the border collie responsible for rounding up sheep on the Orford Ness - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

A seafaring border collie has been recruited to round up flocks of sheep that live in the Orford Ness nature reserve, off the Suffolk coast.

One-year-old Sweep travels by boat across the water to the shingle spit, where he looks after some of the country’s rarest breeds of sheep under the watchful eye of National Trust shepherd Andrew Capell.

Sweep travels over to the Ness via boat

Sweep travels over to the Ness via boat - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

Breeds kept on the Ness include the Whitefaced Woodland, which was saved from extinction in the 1970s, the Manx Loaghtan, which has fewer than 1,500 breeding females left in the country, and the Herdwick, which has long been associated with author Beatrix Potter.

The spit is also home to rare plants such as sea pea, as well as animals including brown hare, Chinese water deer, and birds such as lapwing, marsh harrier and barn owl.

Sweep has started to get used to taking the boat to the Ness 

Sweep has started to get used to taking the boat to the Ness - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

Sweep started his new role in February and follows in the footsteps of his long-standing predecessor, Kite.


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Mr Capell said the National Trust's new recruit could become something of a tourist attraction when the nature reserve reopens in May.

Sweep has taken over the role from his predecessor, Kite

Sweep has taken over the role from his predecessor, Kite - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

He said: "He’s 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.

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"Sweep has plenty to learn so he’ll 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!

Manx Loaghtan are among the rare breeds that call the Ness home

Manx Loaghtan are among the rare breeds that call the Ness home - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

"Having a sea-going sheepdog is a real talking point on the Ness and I’m looking forward to introducing Sweep to visitors once we’ve reopened.

"He’ll no doubt be a popular member of staff and will help us get people engaged in important topics like conservation and the Countryside Code.

Whitefaced Woodland can also be found on the spit

Whitefaced Woodland can also be found on the spit - Credit: National Trust/Richard Scott

"Sweep is the only dog allowed on the Ness due to the fragility of the habitat, but we’re hoping he can help us promote responsible dog behaviour across the UK coast and countryside."

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