Saturday, December 13, 2008

Upland sheep

click photo to enlarge
The Fens of Lincolnshire used to be a land of sheep, but no longer. Today vegetables are much more profitable. However, sheep are still to be found in small numbers, and in larger numbers when they are brought in from more distant pastures to eat the left-overs when fields of cauliflowers and other brassicas have been harvested. Recently as I've travelled around, the breeds I've seen include Lincoln Longwool, Blue-faced Leicester, Blackface, and what appear to be Hebridean (though they may be black Soay sheep). These are in small resident herds, and are nothing like the sheep I've been used to for much of my life.

When I lived in the Yorkshire Dales the Swaledale (pronounced "Swaddle" locally) was ubiquitous. However, I also saw Dalesbred, Lonks, Rough Fell, Masham, and various other breeds. If I went to the Lake District it was the Herdwicks that I noticed roaming the fell sides. However, the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001 wiped out many herds in the North of England, and today some farmers are trying different breeds. As a child I was used to seeing Swaledale sheep in the Craven hills around Settle in North Yorkshire. But, in recent years, though this breed is still common, I've come across quite a lot of what appear to be North of England Mules. This breed is a cross between the Blue-faced Leicester and either the Swaledale or the Northumberland-type Blackface.

As I strode over the limestone hills near Attermire a while ago it was this breed that I came upon. The Swaledales coped with the fescues and nardus grasses, the high rainfall and bleak winters of the Pennines, and presumably there's enough of their hardiness in this cross-bred variety to do so too. A shaft of sunlight illuminated this group on the hillside, so I split the frame in half diagonally with the top of the slope, and selected a group that straggled along this line.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 118mm (236mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/320
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On