Fairy Tale Herdwicks

Since I first saw a photo of a Herdwick Sheep, I felt they looked like they belonged in fairy tales and children’s stories. Well, I can now tell you they are real! I was lucky enough to get to see them in person and even pet a few thanks to the gracious welcome I received from Mary at Crookabeck Farm in Patterdale in the Lake District.
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They are absolutely lovely sheep! Look at those faces!
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The lambs are born very dark and then lighten, finally ending up a very light grey as adults. You can see this lamb has a white face already.

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The lamb in this photo shows you the red brown color you get from that first fleece and how the face starts to lighten.
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Mary also has Angora goats ( much larger than the ones I am used to!)

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And she has a shop on the property,which I visited, (of course!) and you can, too, by going to http://www.crookabeck.co.uk.
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She has all sorts of Herdwick yarn and tops, mohair goods and things woven from Herdwick and mohair. She told me what she really enjoys doing is dyeing her mohair and wool and she does a lovely job of it.
We also went to another shop, The Wool Clip, in Caldbeck, Cumbria. This is run by a group of women who are artisans and fiber animal breeders. Not all have animals but between them they are able to offer a wide variety of handmade items – felted, woven and more. Mary is one of the artisans.For more information on this group, check out their website http://www.woolclip.com. It was actually through them that I found Mary and was able to stay with her and at a B&B run by her daughter. A really wonderful experience, all around.
On a related “pasture management” note, I was fascinated by the stone walls in the area. Mary’s husband, Benny, is an expert at working with stone and was able to explain some of this to me (errors in explanation are mine, not Benny’s!).
The walls are made of stones with rubble filling the spaces between the stones. On the very top, are stones turned the other way, called “cams”.
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One side of the wall may have the stones sticking out more which encourages the sheep not to try to get over those walls (not sure I got that right, but it makes sense.) You might be able to see that in the next photo.

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There were also some very old fencing structures, partly made of stone, which allowed the farmer to remove poles so that shorter animals could go through but that section would keep taller animals on the other side. They didn’t have one set up but you could see the remnants being used for points of interest around the farm.
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We finished up our day with a visit to Beatrix Potter’s cottage and garden. She had Herdwick Sheep and was instrumental in preserving the breed.
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I did not see any sign of Peter Rabbit in the garden but all the way there and back we saw a lot of the other local breed of sheep, the Swaledale.

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Thanks to Mary and her family, I had a very nice visit with these very special sheep.

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Published in: on August 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. They do look like the sheep on the Herdy mugs–especially in that last photo.

  2. My favorite trip blog so far! Love the photos of the Herdwick sheep. They are so cute. The wool changing colors is fun. The walls and gates were interesting, too. Maybe this should be a future FC field trip!


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