Lots and lots of sheep

I’ve been to the Devon County Show today – my favourite place is always the sheep marquees. Lots and lots of local and not so local breeds on show. I never cease to be amazed at the passion and dedication that goes into looking after, breeding and showing these breeds. Here are a few pictures.

This is a Devon and Cornwall Longwool – a sheep originally bred for its wool not its meat – a sheep responsible for much of the prosperity now seen in cities like Exeter in the days when wool was king.

A Whiteface Dartmoor

A Greyface Dartmoor

An Exmoor Horn

A Devon Closewool

A Scotch Blackface – the commonest sheep on Dartmoor

A Valais Blacknose – there is a sheep in there somewhere.

A Border Leicester – amazing ears!

A Bluefaced Leicester

A Black Hebridean Sheep – an ancient breed but rather camera shy.

A Shetland Sheep

A Jacob Sheep

The next three types of sheep are recent breeds, bred specifically for their meat production and originating from Holland and Belgium.

This is a Texel

I don’t think he will take any nonsense

This is a Blue Texel

And this is a Beltex – his legs hardly look strong enough to support his body!

As is this one

Sadly though no multi-horned Manx Loaghtan….

This is a great book which tells the history of sheep in Britain and how that made the country rich

Some different sheep at the magical Challacombe

I was up at Challacombe Farm yesterday afternoon for a site visit to see and discuss the work of Naomi Oakley and Mark Owen who farm this Duchy Farm. It was a field visit which was part of a 2 day workshop entitled ‘Locally led agri-environment schemes – from a farmer’s perspective.’ I’ll report back on the workshop at a later date – in the meanwhile here are a few photos I took at Challacombe.

Naomi showing the extent of her farm and its large number of associated archaeological features.

Reporting back on the bracken management project

The slopes of the valley showing the Mediaeval lynchets – see here for more details on these.

From the barn up the valley to Hameldown Tor

In the barn Naomi shows of three different breeds of sheep which are being kept for their wool – the little dark one at the front is a Black Wensleydale – a very rare breed – see here. The white sheep at the back are Wensleydales – see here.

The sheep with the black and white faces are Zwartbles – famous for producing  an excellent fleece – really good to see wool coming back into profitability again (assuming you use the correct breeds) – see here for more details.

Here are a few Wensleydales out on an in-bye pasture.And this a hardy Welsh Black Mountain Sheep – small but very efficient at grazing around the Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

We also visited the amazing Rhos pastures at Challacombe –  wet valley mires – in the summer they are buzzing with life – I’ve written about these before – see here and here.


Finally …. can really recommend this book – tells the amazing story of sheep in Britain – from the times when wool created the country’s wealth right through to the dominance of sheep for lamb. The last chapter won’t be to everyone’s taste as Philip Walling is clearly very angry of the recent controversies regarding ‘overgrazing’ and the subsequent reduction in the national sheep flock. The book though does give a wonderful introduction to sheep breeds, where they came from and where they now survive.

A great afternoon at a magical place.