Piggies in the park

Image: Pepper and Salt

Gunnersbury Park’s natural solution to the control of invasive plants

By Rosa Apodaca

Gunnersbury Park have introduced a new feature which they hope will entertain and educate the public, but most of all they say will stop the spread of invasive species of plants and increase biodiversity.

Meet Salt and Pepper. Every Monday to Friday, from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm, the two fully grown female pigs will be released into a designated area of the park to roam and forage.

Paul Quinn, head keeper at Gunnersbury Park, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“The pigs will go out there into a restricted area and eat down the stinging nettles, brambles, bindweed and all those invasive plants which stop anything else from growing.”

The benefits of the initiative are overwhelming, he says. Using the pigs eliminates the need to use pesticides and is very cost-effective, saving the park money that would have been spent on gardeners doing a week-long job. It also provides the pigs with extra stimulation.

Images: Salt; Spencer Lewis, park manager at Gunnersbury Park

Public reaction “overwhelmingly positive”

Spencer Lewis, the park manager at Gunnersbury, told us:

“This particular project came out of a conversation with Paul and me. He wanted Salt and Pepper to have a different environment to go into, so we identified an area of the park that we closed off and ran as a pilot test to see the public’s reaction.”

The innovative ecological initiative will help the park to diversify the floral species. Once the pigs have eaten the invasive plants, the areas are replanted and allowed to grow wild, providing nesting grounds for birds and increasing insect life, all of which are beneficial not only for the park but for the community.

Though the initiative is new, the park managers say it has already provided many benefits. CEO of the Gunnersbury Park David Bowler says they hope eventually to extend it to other areas of the park and include other livestock, such as the sheep they keep, or “perhaps even alpacas, which they had 150 years ago in this park”.

“Piggies in the Park” is more than just an ecological initiative, he says. The initiative offers a new event for families and presents educational opportunities for children to learn more about nature.

The public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive so far. The pigs will not be there at weekends in case they become too popular and their newfound fame stresses them out.

Image: Salt, foraging at Gunnersbury Park

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