Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Feeling sheepish

The Lake District has a number of famous inhabitants. Depending on who you ask, they might mention Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the other Lake Poets,  Beatrix Potter, Arthur Ransome or Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. For other people, some of the most famous residents are there still, and will carry on doing so for many years; not the humans who call Lakeland their home, but the Herdwick sheep, 99% of whom are estimated to live in commercial flocks in the central and western dales of the Lake District.

Herdwicks are especially robust animals, and live solely on forage, but tend not to stray, which makes them especially suited to the hills of the Lake District. For those of us who do not farm, the Herdwick sheep are also very distinctive, with their brown wooly bodies and faces seemingly with a perpetual amicable smile, and many people, me included, find them endearingly charming. This pleasing visage is perhaps what prompted the Herdy Company in England to produce a range of Herdwick-inspired products which, with their stylised Herdwick face peeping out, can be found in shops all over the Lake District.

Seeing the Herdwick sheep, perhaps as much as the familiar outlines of the Lakeland Fells, is one of the ways that makes me feel that I have arrived in the Lakes; little brown clouds pottering across the slopes and fields beneath the peaks. It's at least partly because of that pleasing symbiosis that I have a Herdy mug on my desk, when I'm not out walking the Lakeland fells.

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