Towards the end of 2018 Edward visited the local farm of John Dawson and family to ‘help’, or probably more appropriately watch and try not to get in the way, of a ‘gathering’ of sheep from the Ingleborough fells.
Glencroft uses British wool and British sheepskin however we currently have little business contact with the farms these sheep come from. That’s because there are many processes that both wool and sheepskin go through before they can be used in jumpers or slippers and so our direct contacts are tanneries, yarn merchants or knitwear factories.
Read more about the wool and sheepskin processes here:
While we can’t remove the processes we’re keen to try and bridge this gap and bring Glencroft closer to some of the people that make a living on the fells and dales around us. The first step was putting our wellies on and having a chat.
Our local sheep gathering occurs a few times each year. Those who keep sheep on Ingleborough mountain meet on the summit at 6am, these skilled shepherds then round up all the sheep with the help of loyal sheepdogs and take them to one of three gathering points. I observed the end of the gathering at Bleak Bank, the Dawson’s farm a couple of miles along the old road from Clapham to Ingleton.
Inevitably sheep don’t necessarily all go back to their home farm and so the next job is ‘shedding’. This is literally encouraging the flock to move from one end of the yard to the other through a single file corridor which enables farmers to separate the sheep into individual flocks with the help of gates. This then enables them to be returned to their rightful owner.
The next step varies throughout the year but can include shearing hoggs (last year’s lambs) in summer, checking welfare, identifying those to be sold, eventually the remaining sheep are returned to the fells to be seen again at the next gathering.
Read more in depth about the gathering process from the expert John Dawson in the August 2019 Clapham village newsletter. John contributes a regular article to the Clapham newsletter about life on the farm.
An informative morning at the farm was followed by the offer a cup of tea and lunch, even for those such as myself who had done little more than watch the proceedings, and a quick chat about what Glencroft can do to support sheep farmers in the future.
We had a few ideas which I hope to highlight on this blog in the future including lending a hand with the shearing next spring, looking at ways we can connect with local sheep breeders associations and supporting the village newsletter which we did through a sponsorship in December 2018.
Sheep farmers currently get little to no money for their wool or sheepskin, it is very much a by-product of the meat industry, but the more consumers, organisations and individuals can do to support all local businesses, food, materials and manufacturing the better the chance of us continuing to see sheep on the hills of the Yorkshire Dales and there being a wool and sheepskin industry in the future. We are all closely connected, even if in rural areas such as this we are physically quite far apart.