This sheep herding operation stopped me in my tracks this morning. Once again I was in my beloved Lake District. This time to pick up a monk left there two weeks ago, to rest. I was being navigated by a TomTom satellite navigation gadget. It did so well, talking me along remote roads I’d never have been able to negotiate without stopping every few miles to check a map. The road I particularly liked was the one over the fell from Grasemere to Great Langdale valley. I’m fairly sure this is a flock of Herdwick sheep by the way.
During a brief walk in the Langdale valley, in the fine rain that is so dear to my memories of hiking in these fair hills, I found myself addressing one of the sheep directly. Nice coat! I exclaimed, a spinning wheel flashing before my eyes. There was no answer, of course, however they do seem to smile. They are certainly not at all like other sheep who skitter away when humans are close. These just kept on grazing grass, undisturbed and unperturbed as I passed by. I see their fine coats are less used for knitting yarn and more carpet and loft insulation material!
Herdwicks are a dual-purpose breed, but are primarily raised for their hard and resilient grey wool. Their fleece is primarily suited to use as carpet wool; these carpets are sold under the auspices of the National Trust. The wool is also an excellent natural insulator – it is possible to buy sheets of fireproofed wool to fit as loft insulation.
Thanks go to Janet who bought the TomTom originally, and to her family who donated the the machine to the monastery following her death.