Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Sheep ... and a funny way of counting
You can't fail to notice the sheep in the Lake District. They're everywhere, bred to live out on the fells (hillsides) in all weathers. Now I can't pretend to be an expert but, whilst we were talking to a pair of friendly shepherds who were marking this year's lambs with dye, I got busy taking portraits. The wonders of the internet mean that I have fairly confidently identified these!
The top left and bottom right are, I think, Swaledale (or possibly Rough Fell) sheep: hardy upland breeds bred for their meat and recognisable by the white mark across the face. The suspicious-looking one bottom left is, I'm pretty sure, a Herdwick, native to the Lake District and bred both for their coarse grey wool and for meat. (Apparently they ate Herdwick lamb at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation feast in 1953.) They have been shaped by the Cumbrian fells and in turn they have shaped the landscape, keeping the fellsides cropped and largely treeless and criss-crossed by the numerous dry stone walls built to contain the flocks. It's a little known fact that the children's author, Beatrix Potter, who lived most of her life in the Lake District, was a celebrated breeder of Herdwicks. The lambs, top right, are more of a puzzle but they're not Herdwicks. Herdwick lambs are pure black and look delightful leaping about in the fields.
My dad used to amuse me as a child by reciting the ancient shepherd's counting system - Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera, Pimp, Sethera, Lethera, Hovera, Dovera, Dick is the equivalent of one to ten in the North Lakes! Bumfit (15) used to make me laugh the most!