Queen of Herdwicks
Each year we attend several of the traditional country shows held in the Lake District. It’s always a good day out whatever the weather and fun to see locals and visitors alike joining in the fun and festivities. Our favourite show of the year is the last one in our yearly calendar, a traditional shepherd’s meet, the Matterdale & St John’s Sheep Show. Combined with the Patterdale Dog Day it’s one of the smaller country shows and takes place in Patterdale village on the cricket ground, overlooked by the majestic peak of St Sunday Crag. Well known for the quality of the sheep shown at the event, it’s also an opportunity to see a great turnout of feisty Patterdale terriers, watch hound trailing and sheepdog trials, and witness the friendly (seriously competitive) banter of the farmers overlooking the judging of the baking competition. Last but not least you can also enjoy a beer in the well attended beer tent.
There is a renowned shepherdess in Lakeland’s fell farming community, a lady called Jean Wilson of Anns Cottage Farm, Dockray, Patterdale. Visitors to this show will see her taking great pride in showing her prize winning Herdwick sheep. Like the Herdwick, she’s built to survive on the fells, does things ‘her way’ and at 75 years of age she shows no sign of slowing down. In the shepherding community she has long been recognised and admired for being one of the best in the Herdwick game, a bit of a legend – you could say she’s the Queen of Herdwicks. Last year, at the Matterdale & St John’s Sheep Show, we had the honour of judging the Overall Champion sheep. It was a task that turned out to be a tough challenge, the two finalists being a Herdwick and a Swaledale. Spencer took up the mantle on behalf of Herdy. What’s a man supposed to do, especially if you’re Mr Herdy? Impartiality and to judge the ‘best on the day’ was clearly the only course of action. And yes, you guessed it, best on the day turned out to be the Swaledale. Jean Wilson has a steely stare that can turn a man to stone and Spencer won’t forget the day it came his way…
One year on we were at the show once again. The sun shone and the turnout was the best ever. Thankfully our responsibilities this year were less onerous, reverting back to our usual role of sponsoring and presenting the prize for the overall Herdwick champion. This year we also had a very unique gift for the winner: our latest Limited Edition ‘Best in Show’ Herdy Tup, handmade by the lovely people at Merrythought, England’s last remaining teddy bear factory. We were delighted that the totally unique Jean Wilson—Queen of the Herdwicks—won this unique piece. Congratulations Jean (and Spencer thanks you for the smile and the handshake). All in all, a great day out and one of the events that puts the great into the #GreatBritishLakeDistrict.