Saturday, 26 June 2010


The end of the holiday coincided with the annual Woolfest in Cockermouth, what a coincidence that my OH booked this week off :). It was my first time at the festival (OH has been 3 times before) and it was a bit overwhelming, if only for the vast number of people crammed in.

Sadly some of the people I wanted to speak to weren't there but there was still lots of stalls and displays and rather painfully for my wallet a fleece sale. Even worse the fleece sale was right by the entrance so we only made it about 20 yards in before having to return to drop off the first haul to the car. Also many thanks to Enys at Growing Colour for babysitting the 2 Dyer's knotweed and madder plants, that we got from her, till we could pick them up at the end.When not browsing there were a couple of demonstrations on fleece selection and rare breeds the latter of which is shown below

And of course a number of fleece animals to see, with an emphasis on the rare breeds that were the focus for the festival this year. Glad that the Manx I sheared last week had much smaller horns than the lad in the middle.And despite stuffing my face on holiday the highlights were still the delicious ewe's milk ice cream and a pint of Jennings and cake at the end of the day.

Then at the end of the day just time for a last raid on the fleece sale to pick up some more fleeces giving me a grand total of 5: Soay, Teeswater, TeeswaterxShropshire, Portland and BowmontxShetland. Just got them in the car
Good job I also bought some more scouring agent

Inspirations from the Lakes

Just back from 6 days in the beautiful Lake District. For once the weather was not piddling it down and we both came back with a bit of colour despite slatherings of factor 30. Most days were spent poddling or walking through the glorious scenery stopping off at any suitable inns (ie most of them) to sample the local real ales.

Thats not to say that it was all based around spoiling ourselves. OH took time out to teach a local youngster some bad habits.

As one would expect from the lakes there were loads of sheep-mainly Herdwicks (the local hill breed), Swaledales and mules. Lots of super cute lambs as well..

Similarly there was a reat variety of wildlife-we saw buzzards, nesting ospreys, golden-ringed dragonflies and a red squirrel that turned out to be a complete poseur.

Yet the most spectacular wildlife was one of the smallest: any guesses, it betrayed its prescence by the following spooky signs. Any guesses. though those of a nervous disposition may want to stop reading now

Freakily the thick webs that were smothering the trees and everything else around were from this little fella.
It is the larvae of the Bird Cherry Ermine Moth.

At the end of every day we watched the sun go down behind Catbells and over the southern end of Derwentwater. Except for the coouple of evenings when there was cloud the sunsets were stunning

I feel a couple of new colourways coming on!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Shearing the Flexigraze Sheep

Spent today helping Stephen Coomber and Jess the sheepdog from Flexigraze shear sheep at two sites: Whittle Dene and Clara Vale. The flexigraze sheep are part of the larger grazing action project (GAP) scheme that uses traditional grazing to cut down grass and scrub allowing wildflowers and the ecosystems that come with them to develop.

At Whittle Dene there are Swaledales, a traditional hill breed, and Manx Loaghtan, a rare primitive breed. Both are quite small which as a good job as they all wriggled like nobody's business whenever myself, Stephen or Alan (another volunteer) tried to handle them. Typical, as when the manx were down at Tyne Riverside they were tame as anything coming upto the fence of their enclosure whenever anyone went past. The end result was a bit of a battering for all of us especially from the manx on the right who was determined to wap his horns in my knackers.
The end result was a series of much skinnier sheep.............


But free at last!

As well as the shearing a number of butterflies made an appearance and one spectacular hummingbird hawkmoth that appeared and dissapeared when I didn't have the camera to hand...poo!

Then on to Clara Vale, a great little reserve where 4 Hebrideans had been working on scrub bashing. Unlike the Whiitle Dene lot these came over to say hello when we netered the field but then scarpered when Jess made an appearance.
Obviously they had decided that they were fed up with waiting for a haircut and had already started shedding to get a fashionable reversible mohican look.

Once again a quick number one and we had

and a pile of lovely chocolate brown fleece

Now I just need to get those wool combs sorted out.............................