Birthday Sheep

purposeful little group of sheep moving as a group and trying to look at me while not looking.

I was so heartened to read your lovely comments on my last post about the project on which I’ve been working on with Muriel! Later in the week we’ll be talking more about the yarn with which we have been working. Stay tuned!

Before we get into that, though, I have unrelated Joy I want to share with you.
It’s a sheep! Or rather some sheep I met on Birthday Adventures last week.

A winsome sheep peeps out through dark lashes; it has a short, recently-shorn biscuity-coloured fleece, and strong dark badger markings around its eyebrows and jaw; its nose and ears are also black, and this sheep is mostly likely a Welsh Badgerface Torddu sheep.

Through 2020 and the early part of 2021, like many of us, I barely left the house. We’d do one short local walk around the park per day; I’d pop to the near shop in my mask for essentials; or I’d drive to my storage unit to fulfil KNITSONIK orders to keep the KNITSONIK shop going. There were very few outings. I am incredibly lucky that I was already working from home; am quite hermity in nature anyway; and had ways to keep my business going from home throughout the pandemic. But last week, when they surrounded our car with their inquisitive faces and rough, just-shorn woolly bodies, I realised one thing I’ve really missed while sheltering in place has been the underrated company of sheep.

A posse of several sheep peer questioningly out at us; their pretty black ears poke to the sides and their little noses are raised, interestedly, as if we, the viewer, may be possessed of edibles.

 Many badgerfaced Welsh sheep can be seen trotting towards us along a path, they have black bellies and legs, black stripes and black ears, and are otherwise a sort of biscuity cream colour. In a group, they read as stripy things with legs.

In normal years there would be at least three or four annual occasions, not to mention visits-with-friends, which would entail some quality time spent with ovine friends. I can’t put my finger on why, but hanging out with sheep is just the best.

closeup side profile of Badger Face Welsh Mountain sheep, Torddu type.

This was a new-to-me type of sheep; likely – after a little research and asking on IG – to be Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep, Torddu type. They surrounded our car on one of many winding roads through The New Forest, like a little cloud. Meandering, unbothered, curious, stopping to scratch a scritch, or look on at us with mild interest, (did we have any treats?) they slowed us and all other traffic to a near halt until suddenly, with the most delicate patter of hooves, they had evaporated into the surrounding lands. We parked up on a verge, intent on finding them again so I could take some pictures to try and identify these winsome, stripy creatures.

two sheep grazing underneath the boughs of a tree, encircled by ferns.

They had covered a great deal of ground in a short amount of time, and had quietly relocated to a deeply wooded area.

a sheep munching on some brambles

Here the sheep found wondrous plants on which to munch…

a sheep rubbing itself against a tree, in order to scratch an itch.

…lovely rough trees against which to rub a bothersome itch…

a posse of sheep scratching one another and engaging in foolery and ragging.

…and buddies with whom to rag and scrap amidst the ferns.

We watched them for a while.

purposeful little group of sheep moving as a group and trying to look at me while not looking.

sheep spreading out across the landscape.

Until slowly they began to again disperse.

little sheep disappearing into the bend of the road ahead.

And just as quickly as they had materialised around our car, with their curious little faces and quiet, peacable presence, they seemed to be absorbed again into the winding roads and treelined pockets of The New Forest.

We were left, then, with their close associates, the wild ponies.

A gorgeous group of New Forest ponies, in various shades of brown and dappled grey, black and dun and tan.

beautiful velveteen ponies in brown, dappled grey, and a very dark one in the background of the photo.

big silky black ponies with a little white forehead star.

I have missed these animals so much; their lives beyond and totally outside of our human nonsense; their social behaviours; their quiet, unfathomable presence.

Beautiful gingery horse with a big blond mane and a lovely soft pink nose.

young foal lying on the grass and flicking its tail to ward off annoying flies.

It was a gift to meet them in the forest.
Yours in sheep and horses –
Fx

5 thoughts on “Birthday Sheep

  1. I love your photos — they’re beautiful. What a wonderful gift in my inbox to start my morning!

  2. What a treat! Those sheep just made my heart swell up – and the ponies (we would call them horses here – our ponies are very very much smaller than horses) are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing these treasures. And – I live in the US – “common grazing”? And the horses are not owned by anyone, free to wander where they want? I don’t think we have common grazing here, but I haven’t been everywhere so I might be wrong. But it sounds so kind and civilized.

  3. Thank you for this lovely post, Felix! It’s so uplifting to read about your encounters with these beautiful animals and to see your stunning pictures of them. Common grazing is such an important part of our heritage and it’s fabulous that we still have places where this ancient tradition happens and where people can encounter animals in this way, who are often so curious and friendly from their life-long and flock-memory experience of meetings with a huge variety of people. I’m inspired to go and visit our local common fell ponies!

  4. Lovely lovely photos. Not often surrounded by sheep, but I have the privilege of having a Highland pony (at one point I had 6),whom I haven’t seen since March and I miss him. He is being looked after by trusted friends as I had an accident in March (no I didn’t fall off!) and broke my hip,which resulted in a total hip replacement and an ongoing recuperation. He’s 22 and his quiet presence is very peaceful.

    1. Aw your beautiful Highland pony sounds lovely and I’m glad he’s being cared for while you’re healing from your total hip replacement. I’m not surprised you miss him, and hope you are reunited soon. I hope you recover soon and are able to be with your pony.

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