Sheepdog finds his sea legs after starting job with ferry commute

Sam Russell, PA
·2-min read

A sheepdog has “found his sea legs” after starting work on a remote shingle spit off the Suffolk coast which requires a commute by boat, a shepherd has said.

One-year-old border collie Sweep has been rounding up rare-breed sheep at the National Trust’s Orford Ness nature reserve since February this year, taking over from his predecessor, Kite.

One-year-old border collie Sweep must take a boat to work as a sheepdog at Orford Ness, off the Suffolk coast. (National Trust/ Richard Scott/ PA)
One-year-old border collie Sweep must take a boat to work as a sheepdog at Orford Ness, off the Suffolk coast (National Trust/Richard Scott/PA)

Shepherd Andrew Capell 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.”

He said Sweep, who is still in training, will help engage visitors to the reserve in conservation and the Countryside Code.

Sweep will work with rare-breed sheep (National Trust/ Richard Scott/ PA)
Sweep will work with rare-breed sheep (National Trust/Richard Scott/PA)

Orford Ness is the largest shingle spit in Europe, according to the National Trust, which maintains the reserve and runs a public ferry service when Covid restrictions allow.

The spit was used as a military test site during both World Wars and into the nuclear age, before the Ministry of Defence sold it to the National Trust in 1993.

Sweep will work with rare-breed sheep at the reserve, including the Whitefaced Woodland, Manx Loaghtan and the Herdwick.

Sheepdog Sweep has found his sea legs, according to National Trust shepherd Andrew Capell. (National Trust/ Richard Scott/ PA)
Sheepdog Sweep has found his sea legs, according to National Trust shepherd Andrew Capell (National Trust/Richard Scott/PA)

He is the only dog allowed on the spit due to the fragility of the habitat, which is home to animals including brown hare, Chinese water deer, and birds such as lapwing, marsh harrier and barn owl.

Rare plants like sea pea grow at the reserve, as well as more than 100 species of lichen.