Farming in the Lake District 

 The Shepherds Year...


Look up towards the Lakeland fells in Late autumn and you are likely to see large flocks of Herdwick and Swaledale ewes - some flocks numbering over 1,000 sheep - being gathered in preparation for the breeding season. Neighbouring farmers often join forces for the "autumn gather", each with their lean, hard working sheepdogs tirelessly grazing to lower pastures.

 

The Ewes are placed with the ram which is kept on lower ground - and then returned to the fell early in the New Year. Fell winters are long and hard, but Lakeland sheep are robust animals, and only in the harshest weather will they need hay.

 

In the lengthening days and warmer weather of late April, shepherds bring the ewes down to the sheltered, lower lying pastures round the farm for lambing. This is as hectic period for the shepherd, who has to keep a close eye on his flock in case any ewes need a helping hand.

 

Ewes and lambs spend the summer on the fell, but return to the farm in July to have their warm wool fleece, or jacket sheared. Before going back to the fell, the shorn ewes will be dipped in a chemical solution to protect them from insects & parasites. The next time the flocks visit the farm is in early autumn after the lambs are weaned. Some ewe lambs stay in the flock while the rest, including the castrated male lambs or wethers go for sale at the farmers markets.