Sunday, 23 October 2011

How Not to Catch a Sheep

While I have been working on the computer my husband has been watching the Rugby World Cup Final. It has reminded me of my one failed attempt at a rugby tackle; the grazing officer and I were trying to catch one of the Herdwick sheep that needed medical attention. After it had run past me twice without me catching it, the grazing officer shouted in exasperation, " You have to rugby tackle it!" Now, one doesn't argue with the Grazing Officer when he is stressed, so off I went, mumbling grumpily under my breath, "Doesn't he realise how old I am!" and "Hasn't he noticed I'm female so have never played rugby in my life!" Anyway when the sheep raced past me for the third time I duly threw myself through the air in my best imitation of a rugby player and of course fell flat on my face:) I expected the grazing officer either to be laughing his head off or screaming that I was useless but he was already in hot pursuit of the sheep putting in his own rugby tackles. Just as we were giving up and were about to get the dog out the sheep also gave up and we caught him easily. In retrospect it must have looked very funny and I would have loved to have had it on video:)))

This week we have moved the female lambs from the farm where they were born back in March, to their first conservation grazing site. It was all very scary for them but Granny Alice (see previous post) went with them and they all stayed close, following her every move.

The site they have gone to is another Cowslip field at High Elms in Bromley, a couple of miles from where I live and close to Charles Darwin's House at Downe. High Elms Estate used to be owned by Sir John Lubbock who, as an MP in the 1800's, was instrumental in the introduction of the August Bank Holiday. The estate is now run as a nature reserve by the council. In the Spring and Summer there are lots of wild flowers with some quite rare orchids but at this time of year it is lovely to walk through the woods kicking the fallen leaves or to stroll in the more formal gardens, admiring the autumn colours of the many beautiful trees that were planted by the Lubbock family all those years ago. There is also a sensory walk, various ponds, beehives, nature cabin and cafe so well worth a visit.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sheep and Peagles

Life is somewhat stressful at the moment so any excuse to escape into the countryside is valuable. I have therefore found that I have really missed not having the ponies to stock check. We have been over to visit them a few times and they are both happy and well although getting a little tubby after eating their way through another field of over-growth but it is setting them up well for the bad winter everyone says we are going to have and by next Spring they will be beautifully slim again...hmmm...maybe I should spend the winter out in the fields with them as I need to shed a few pounds:)

I am pleased to say we have now got some sheep back in Tatsfield to stock check again as we have recently helped move a mix of 27 Beulah's and Jacobs, including some of this years lambs.
The sheep are split into two fields. One of the fields I have written about before as it used to have a lot of brambles growing in it which made it a difficult to stock check and although there was a lot of wildlife, the flowers were a little overwhelmed by the brambles. The Downlands Project put sheep on the field again last winter, then any remaining tougher growth was cut and as a result there was an amazing display of Cowslips and Violets in the Spring. It just shows how worthwhile this combination of conservation work is.

Interestingly I have just found out that Cowslips are also called Peagles. I have no idea why or what the meaning of Peagles is...I thought it was what they called dogs that were a cross between Beagles and Pekingese:)

The fields that we graze in Tatsfield are in a lovely position on the side of the North Downs with far reaching views. They are also surrounded by some beautiful woodland so we often extend our stock checking with a walk in the woods.

I love trees and as a child could never resist climbing them...the bigger the better...I was a wild child of the 60's in the most literal sense as, if I wasn't riding a horse or playing in a nearby stream, I would be sitting in the largest apple tree at the end of our garden. It was a difficult tree to climb as it involved leaping for the lowest branch then turning upside down so that I could use a leg to lever me up but it was a great place to watch wildlife.

These are two of the lovely trees at Tatsfield. Sadly I am well past being able to climb them but that lovely green canopy still looks very inviting.

Last week I also helped to sort the remaining sheep at the farm ready for them to be taken out to their various conservation grazing sites for the winter. I am very pleased to say a favourite Jacob of mine, who I call Alice, passed her sheepy MOT even though she is getting on a bit. She has a lovely temperament and although she has never managed to have her own lambs she has been useful acting as Granny to the female lambs in the months following separation from their mothers. She is a good, calming influence and role model and will happily put up with juveniles following her around.

I have to admit I had quite a few sheepy conversations with her last year when I was stock checking her flock...I wonder what she was saying back to me when I took this picture, probably, " Silly human," although with that expression it could have been something far worse..maybe she is not such a good influence!