Saturday, March 18, 2006


click photo to enlarge
One of my earliest memories as a child is walking with my mother from the small hamlet where we lived, into the nearby market town, and on the way being attacked by a large sheep that had got into the lane! I can vividly see my mother putting herself between me and the sheep and beating it with her shopping bag each time it tried to butt us with its head.

Growing up in the Yorkshire Dales meant that sheep were in most fields that I passed by and through, so it's fortunate that my early experience left no lasting scar. In fact seeing the cycle of sheep rearing marked the seasons for me as clearly as the smell of wild thyme or the sharp note of the newly arrived wheatear. Lambing, dipping and shearing were the highpoints, but colour marking and bringing the sheep off "the tops" when snow was in prospect were also noteworthy events. The hardy Swaledale was the breed of choice for the high fells, with heavier breeds sometimes being favoured in the bigger valleys.

My photograph of these sheep reminded me that the duties of motherhood are common to all animal species. This Swaledale ewe is offering her lambs two of the most important things any mother can give her offspring - protection and food. I used a 400mm lens to prevent the sheep taking fright, and chose to make this shot because of the way the back lighting was emphasising the texture of the wool. Perhaps, subconsciously, I also had in mind my childhood encounter, and recognised in this scene a mother doing for her lambs what my mother did for me all those years ago.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen