National Wool Week

As it’s officially ‘National Wool Week’, I thought to make a post on Swaledale sheep. Stumble upon a lonely road in Teesdale packed with a flock of slow moving Swaledales and time to kill, resign yourself to a late appointment or arrival. I love Swaldales (careful tongues might start wagging). What I mean is I like the way they endure the worst of the winter weather. When cattle are brought indoors the hardy Swaledales are left to battle through the wind snow and ice without complaint.  There are others too that demand respect and admiration. The Scottish Blackface (great name for a band) and Rough Fell, are all hardy breeds commonly found in upland locations such as the North Pennines. Yes, it’s true; I follow sheep always in search of a good picture to paint. In time, I could become the ‘Sheep Man’! I’ve also included a link on National Wool Week with an interesting barn story!


Swaledales 'ont' Road



21 Replies to “National Wool Week”

  1. Ok, I am loving all the names…Swaledales, Scottish Blackface… I only know of one kind of sheep here. We call them…sheep. hehe. I seriously love this scene. It fascinates me how it is both loose and very clear simultaneously. It feels like the herd is coming toward me. And the sky and road make it feel like it is cold and wet. Wonderful!

  2. I love it when you include the paintings of the sheep and that dog you painted one time; was it a border collie? Your line work gives the impression of movement. Here you have caught the whole herd moving along. Seems to me these farmers or shepherds could at least provide their sheep with a wind break of a three sided shed.

    1. Thank you Leslie, Yes, I remember posting the watercolour of Kelly our Border Collie. A dog with way too much intelligence! I’ve been sticking with the pen over the last few days, I really enjoy drawing with it outdoors, but I’ve also started using it at home. Those Swaledales take an age before finally clearing the road. Perfect excuse to sit and do nothing but watch! Really appreciate your feedback. As always, still an inspiration to me!

  3. A barn covered in wool… interesting the ways artists interact with nature. I love your painting of the flock of sheep – I can almost hear them baaa-ing. We had a little Shetland Sheep Dog when I was a child. On weekends we took him to the local sheep barns and they allowed him to have some fun herding the sheep for a couple of hours. These days we sometimes we get to see herding demonstrations at the various “Scottish” festivals we have in our area. It’s great being outdoors and feeling the autumn air and the sights and sounds of the sheep…

    1. The barn was used when breeds of sheep were less hardy! I’m going for a drive up at the weekend to see if I can find it. We also had a Border Collie, extremely intelligent and always the organiser! I love autumn, it’s a great time of year in the North Pennines, the colours are so rich! Thanks again for your comments Barbara. Very much appreciated.

  4. Very well captured – I like the fluidity in your work. You must have been there a while – I thought sheep normally went past the sides of the car quite quickly, or maybe there wasn’t a farmer behind?
    I like seeing different varieties of sheep too. Where I live sheep’s milk is used to make a delcious cheese.(Delicious if you like cheese that is.) I don’t think the wool is collected at all.

    Thank-you for all your kind comments on my blog too.

    1. Hello Sonya, I’m using a special fine nibbed pen at the moment. The ink remains permanent allowing you to paint immediately onto the watercolour paper. I never travel far without a camera, so whenever a photo opportunity comes along I grab it…sometimes without permission! I love all types of cheese, I’ve had sheep’s cheese from the farmers’ market- very nice too, although I bet the cheese from your area is exceptional. Thanks again for posting. I really enjoy looking through your blog and your work.

    2. Being allergic to cow’s milk, I love the goat cheese imported from France. Don’t think I’ve ever seen of had sheep cheese before. Will have to ask around…

      1. One good thing to come out of the artisan food revival, was the number of farmers’ market now appearing each weekend. Good quality cheese is much easier to come by and local too! Sheep and goats cheese yum-yum! there’s an idea…I should keep one of each in the garden!

  5. I think goats’ & sheep cheeses are my favourites overall -but the more commercially produced ones are much less interesting than what you get when you buy from a local market-it’s good that that’s improving where you are.
    I have to correct my ignorance by the way, on the sheep shearing. Whenever we’re in the mountains the sheep seem to have lots of wool so I wrongly assumed it wasn’t always used, at least not more locally. Apparantly (according to someone I know who has done a course on making sheeps milk products)they are shorn once a year & it depends on the place as to what that time is (can be Autumn for example). Also the sheep are brought down from the higher altitudes when it starts to get colder so they aren’t usually there to see if they’ve been shorn or not.

    1. Sonya, We both enjoy goats and sheeps cheese! What a great way to start a friendship! I really enjoyed reading about the sheep wool in your area. I guess nothing good ever goes to waste! What bread of sheep live in your area?- I’d love to see some pictures! Late night reply- very long day, but I really appreciate your kind words.

  6. Well I didn’t know what the breeds are actually, but your question made me curious, so I’ve been looking into it! It turns out that the traditional breed is the Latxa; There are black faced & blonde faced varieties. On the French side they are called “Manech” but according to the person from whom we buy our “brebis” it’s the same thing. This person also sometimes grazes his sheep in the grounds of Abbadia so I have in fact painted some once when I painted the château there. The Spanish side Basque cheese is Idiazabal & the French appellation is Ossau Iraty. They are both hard cheeses & the main differance is that the Idiazabal is smoked. A traditional way to eat it is with membrillo, a type of quince jam & walnuts. The French have it with black cherry (of Itxaso)jam, apart from just by itself of course.
    There is also another breed called Carranzana which seems to be just on the Spanish side. The milk can also be used for Idiazabal. The profile of the sheep’s head is more convex & it’s a larger sheep. Then I found another called Sasi Ardi which has a triangular head & bulging eyes! I feel like I’ve probably seen all these varieties at one time or another but never got round to finding out about them – so thank-you for your question , I’ve learnt something!

    1. Sonya, The Latxa look a little like our Swaledales only more curved horns. Brebis-lamb?… Yes, the Carranzana has a very unusual oval shaped head. I followed some interesting links from your reply. I’d love to try the cheese some time, the Idiazabal looks delicious! I want some now!

  7. Brebis means “ewe” & in this conext refers to the cheese.In other words you ask for a “morceau de brebis- a piece of sheep’s cheese”! I wonder if you can get Idiazabal in the UK – probably in some very expensive delicatessen. Anyway, I’m sure the cheese they make in the Pennines must be delicious too.

    1. Thank you Sonya. I’ve really enjoyed this cheese thread. I’m going to look for Idiazabal, or at least ask my artisan cheese maker friend if he can get me some.
      The only cheese of note from the North Pennines is ‘Cotherstone’, which I find too mild. Head north into Northumberland, Cumbria and Yorkshire and you have a completely different story.

    1. Thank you Linda, that’s very kind of you to say so. I find it very difficult to work on large pieces, smaller quick sketches are better, as I have a habit of over working things. Really pleased you stopped by and left a comment. Please don’t be a stranger.

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