The Vault Regulars

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Walna Scar shepherds meet 2013.

This years Shepherds Meet event was held on Saturday 2nd November 2013 at Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley, Cumbria.
Its an event we really enjoy and it gives us a chance to have a chat, a laugh and a joke with the local farmers and the numerous friends we have made there over the last 30 yrs.
We had been invited to stay with friends Tina and Alan for the weekend.
Friday night saw us at Nick's Italian in Gosforth, again renewing acquaintances from where Sheila's mam lived before moving down to Manchester. We had an excellent meal, it was a busy night and the staff did well.
Saturday morning Tina and Alan were up early as they are part of the organising team. Licences have to be filled in regarding the moving of livestock and this takes quite so time.
Alan was helping the get the big marquee tent up and sort out the historical picture boards that portray the event from years past.

By 10.00am when we made it into the field most things had been done. Alan was in position on the gate.
The sheep were in the pens and the farmers were having a last brew huddled under the tent whilst the first of many heavy cloud bursts made its presence.
At about 10.20am it was decided to get things underway whilst the rain had eased just a little.

There are basically two breeds of sheep in this region, Herdwick and Swaledales. The farmers show their stock to the judges and they decide who has the best. Judges are usually from neighbouring valleys. There are lots of classes to judge and its all very serious.

Here are a few of the classes that I can remember so that you can appreciate how complicated it can be.

Three aged ewes.
Two gimmer lambs.3 sheep in natural colour.
Tup and gimmer lamb bred by the exhibitor.
Male and female bred by exhibitor.
Female champion.
Best group of sheep.
Overall champion.
And there's more.

Most of the morning the weather was mixed between heavy showers, light rain and gusty wind. We paid quite a bit of time drinking coffee to warm up and dashing out during the calmer moments to take some photo's.
A very rare and unusual double twist horned Herdwick tup
A couple of the young farmers were debating about the coarse for the hound trailing event. The clag  was down quite low and the route which was to go between Caw and White Pike was engulfed in the white stuff and it most most miserable. Anyway the coarse was set. Hardy souls these guys.

Lunch for exhibitors is a set menu so we decided to get ours out of the way before they all came in. The Newfield Inn being host for lunch.

Just after the event resumed we had a tremendous down pour. The most severe so far. Then we had a hail storm. The event just carried on but a lot of the visitors and hound trailers departed to the pub. We stayed out to show the farmers we were supporting them.
The wind picked up, the leaves were being snapped off the trees and it was getting a touch wild. The sheep were shaking themselves to get rid of the excess water and the farmers in their oil skin type suits were looking a bit washed out.

Then an almighty gust of wind lifted the marquee tent clean up in the air about 10ft and deposited it upside down on the other side of a barbed wire fence. Myself and a number of others ran to help but the wind picked it up again and carried it clean over another barbed wire fence.
All the items which had been inside the tent were now being spoiled. The photograph boards, the numerous cakes, tea and coffee etc.
Eventually we caught hold of this 1 ton tent and managed to wrestle it into submission. It was disassembled and folded away in about 2 minutes. Luckily it seemed to be undamaged.

There was some doubt now if the kids pet show would be held but between the showers it was held and somehow every enterent won something. Great.
The hand made crooks were judged and prizes awarded and then the hound trail was underway.

This always causes lots of excitement as the owners wait with binoculars pointed into the high fells to see them first appear.
You can hear the barking long before you see them and as they approach the finish the owners whistles and the shaking of the food tubs seems quite manic.
Then there is always the last one, the one that has gone astray. The owner standing on his own staring into the gloom for any trace of his hound. Minutes pass by and still nothing, then 10 minutes. Eventually someone spots it working its way slowly down the gullies and over the rocky outcrops. The whistling and shaking of the food tub starts again until the hound is back safely.

The surrounding hillsides disappear again and it goes black. Were in for it now a farmer shouts and almost instantly we are in a deluge. The rain was bouncing. The last few prizes were handed out within the cocopheny of the storm. Sheila decided she had had enough and so I told her to go and get inside. Towards Harter Fell the lightening was strieking followed by the almost immediate thunder clap. Again and again the bang was being ricocheted around the hill tops and the rain fell like stair rods.
Fortunately I was wearing my Brenig smock, not the Aran but the one with the aluminium lining. Its performance was nothing short of miraculous. In my blog post about this smock I said that it may not be suited to UK conditions for backpacking but would be suitable for more sedatory tasks such as marshalling, outdoor instructing etc and this event has proved it to me that this is the best waterproof I have ever worn.
The smiling winner of overall champion Anthony Hartley
Despite the weather and eventually being driven indoors we thoroughly enjoyed being here. Its so fulfilling to be a part of the community on this weekend.
In the evening there is much singing and story telling as well as lots of great crack or gossip depending on what part of the country you are from.

Once again our thanks to Tina and Alan for inviting us.

During the day I managed to speak to Steven Gorse, who farms at Hoses near Broughton Mills. I did a post last year when he had decided to start up a new camping site and i know a few of you stayed there.
He has now decided that this venture is not for him BUT, if any backpackers still want to use his fields for an overnight stop then he is more than happy to allow it. Just call at the farm and make yourself known.  Thanks Steven, that's very much appreciated.


Sir Hugh said...

A most interesting post which brings back memories of a hound trail at Coniston I attended with the family over 20 years ago. The assortment of characters, the excitement, and the spectacle of the hounds coming in, and the noise and rattle of the food bowls, and shouting and whistling of the owners make this a must do event for anybody with the slightest feeling for the outdoors. For you all that was enhanced by the rest of the event and being in the Duddon valley - the best place inThe Lakes.

Dawn said...

Shame about the weather Alan, that looks like a fantastic event. Some lovely 'yows' and 'tups' there there too.

AlanR said...

Its a fantastic day Conrad. The Duddon as you say is THE best place. But don’t tell anyone. We will keep it our secret.

AlanR said...

Dawn the weather is part of country life as you know. You just get on with it. Yes sunny dry weather would have brought more people out but for us it didn’t matter that it was a bit grim.

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