The arrival of sheep in Coopers Meadow this spring left some residents confused as to how they got there.

But the woolly creatures are not lost or abandoned – they have been put in Coopers Meadow by Action for the River Kennet (ARK) to graze.

There are three Wiltshire Horn sheep in the meadow, close to Waitrose car park, which were put to a Hampshire ram and produced five lambs.

Charlotte Hitchmough, director of ARK, said: “Previously the town council would mow the grass and leave the cuttings to rot down so stronger plants like stinging nettles, which we would consider to be weeds, would thrive.

“The sheep are being used for conservation grazing, which changes the vegetation and makes the land look prettier with more flowers.”

In 2009, Belted Galloway cattle were introduced to graze in the meadow.

Ms Hitchmough said: “The way sheep graze is different to cows, they are neater over the surface.

“Cows tend to rip the grass up in clumps so they did a good job of getting up the core vegetation.

“The cows, Harriet and her calf Campanula, are now in the meadow at Stonebridge. We would like to have about four cows at Stonebridge because there’s a lot of grass for only two to eat.”

The sheep will stay in the meadow until the autumn and will spend winter at a farm in Minal.

Ms Hitchmough said: “We’ll make a decision whether to bring the sheep back or whether to use cows again. It’s taken us four years to see results and we’re happy.

“At first we weren’t sure about having livestock in the centre of town but we haven’t had any problems.”

The notice in Coopers Meadow giving information about the cows has been updated and will be put up when back from the printers.