'Pastoral,' I replied. 'Herdwicks in wood pasture. Did you know that herdwick also means sheep pasture?' Approaching Loughrigg Tarn I looked for an ash pollard featured in the film Miss Potter- Beatrix Potter bred herdwicks. The ancient ash was gone. Only a rotten branch and tree roots beside the stile. We chose to have lunch in the herdwick, the sheep pasture with vistas of the Langdale Pikes. Rossett Gill was packed with snow and shone in the sunlight. A sheepish chorus grew louder: we had visitors. They'd heard about my home-made bread.
Photographs first, catch the light when you can. Lunch could wait. The chorus of baas and bleatings grew louder and the Herdwicks came at a brisk trot through a track of molehills, louder and louder. My unattended bread roll and cheese were the attraction and the lead ewe muzzled the lid off my picnic box and went in. Monica reached out to save my lunch. Too late! I made the video. Story before lunch, after all.
We love them, the Herdwicks. On the high fells they are resilient against Atlantic weather, against wind and rain. They have two coats, sensible creatures. The outer coat gives a unique protection against the weather.
Herdwick, or Herdwyck meaning sheep pasture was the original meaning of the word, from the 6th century. Herdwyck: a sheep pasture or sheep farm. Herdwicks are hefted to the fell, their survival in wild weather depends on their intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny. So a farming tenancy included a farm, its pastures and its flock of Herdwicks: a Herdwick tenancy.
Farmers give their pregnant ewes extra sustenance at this season, so they're used to being fed. On Tuesday at Tom Heights our lunch stop attracted inquisitive ewes but they were not so bold. Look at my Herdwick images and admire their outer-coats, weather-beaten but resilient. And their winning faces. I'm more than happy to break bread with a flock of Herdwicks in their pasture.