Newsletter > Newsletter archive > September 2014
The world of sheep
Because they’re all around us it’s easy to overlook the profound influence sheep have had on our history and landscape. Without them our hills and fells would certainly look very different, but so would many of our towns. Some of our most magnificent churches, like that at Cirencester in the Cotswolds, were built on the back of the enormous wealth generated by the medieval wool trade.
In our own part of the country, living right at the edge of the ‘in-bye’ land where the walled enclosures turn into open fell, the seasons are punctuated by the arrival and departure of flocks of Swaledale ewes, brought in at different times of year for ‘tupping’ with the carefully bred rams, lambing and shearing, before being let loose again onto the open moorland above. These hardy hill sheep are ‘hefted’, so by and large they stick to their ancestral patch of fell, passing their innate knowledge of the land on to each new generation.
The Swaledales are now part of a finely engineered cross-breeding program that, in three generations, creates faster growing and fatter lambs for slaughter. The development of this breeding pyramid was an integral part of the industrial and agricultural revolution that took place from the eighteenth century onwards, as the growth of big cities created an ever increasing demand for lamb. Meanwhile sheep were kept less and less for their wool, despite it having been the source of so much wealth in centuries past. It proved almost impossible to develop a breed that was good for wool as well as for meat.
This, and much more, is explained in fascinating detail in a new book, ‘Counting Sheep: A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain’ by Philip Walling. Walling was once a sheep farmer in Cumbria and his account is both personal and meticulously researched. If you have an interest in the history of the British landscape, this book provides a refreshing new angle. It is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle editions.
Walking in the Canary Islands
There are seven major Canary Islands. Until now, Inntravel has been offering self-guided walking holidays exploring the unspoiled heart of six of them. That changed with the introduction of Fuertventura – the oldest and original member of the archipelago.
To get the lowdown and find out which island might suit you best, you can take a look at a useful overview by Jack and Andy Montgomery of Buzz Trips, who live and work on the islands and who have explored them all in great detail. Alternatively, you can visit the Inntravel website to see the full range of walking holidays on offer.
To the eastern end of the archipelago, Lanzarote’s stark landscape is perhaps more redolent of Africa than it is of Europe; while Gran Canaria’s mountains offer dramatic walking and views that wow at every turn. Meanwhile, way out to the west, little El Hierro has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its unique landscapes.
To choose an island to explore on foot –- or a combination of three of our favourites for a thrilling Canary Island Experience – visit inntravel.co.uk or speak to Inntravel’s expert team on 01653 617034.
- Self-guided, two-centre walking holiday
- Prices from £660pp, inc 7 nights’ B&B accommodation, 2 dinners, 3 picnics, detailed route guides & maps, plus 7 days’ car hire
- Flights extra (direct to Fuerteventura from several UK regional airports)
- Available from now to 31 May 2015
After the vote…
The Scots have (narrowly) voted to stay in the UK and it will be interesting to see how the sometimes fractious debate affects tourism in the coming few years. Let’s hope everyone puts the politics behind them and visitors continue to find a brilliant welcome and stunning places to walk in Scotland. One project that we are watching with interest is The North Highland Way which is gathering pace. You can find walks on the Way though a dedicated website. The website features new accommodation providers, familiarisation courses and bag transfer. The planning group are even starting to get the Way route marked, courtesy of Easyways who have sponsored the discs.
If you want to pack a couple of Christmas presents away well in advance don't forget the excellent Wainwright Society 2015 calendar. Every year a few hundred Walkingworld members buy one of these calendars, which is brilliant because all the profits go to good causes. This year the money will be going to the Brathay Exploration Group Trust to provide 'taster weekends' in the Lake District to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As always the calendar is a beautiful affair in its own right, combining modern photographs by Society members with Alfred Wainwright's drawings of the same location. The calendar costs just £10 including post and packing to addresses in the UK (there are slightly higher charges to have one mailed abroad). More information and online ordering on the Wainwright Society website.
The North Pennines Walking Festival starts this weekend (Saturday 27th) and lasts for a week, but there are still spaces on many of the walks, including one being led by David and his friend Andy Bryan from Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team. The walk goes to the enigmatic nine cairns sitting on the skyline above Kirkby Stephen called the Nine Standards where the group will be met by the author of a study on the monument, Stephen Walker, for a brief exploration. Then there’s a return via the pretty hamlet of Nateby back to Kirkby Stephen where no doubt we’ll end up in a pub. Walks at the Festival do need to be booked; more information the Festival website.
Kendal Mountain Festival is the biggest outdoor event of its type in the world. As ever there’ll be hundreds of film screenings including high-profile premieres plus loads of speakers and special guests. There’ll be characters such as Australian adventurer, author and filmmaker Tim Cope who spent the best part of a decade travelling Central Asia by bicycle, boat, skis, horse and camel and uber-alpinist Christophe Profit, the Frenchman who ripped up the mountaineering rule book in the 1980s with a string of ultra-fast ascents across the Alps, almost always without a rope. Dates are 20-23 November with tickets already on sale – news as it happens at www.mountainfest.co.uk
Massive online course on Hadrian’s Wall
In the world of academia the rather horribly named massive open online courses (MOOGs) are causing something of a ruckus. Some think they are the future of lifetime education, others that it will undermine the ‘proper’ courses run by universities and colleges. While the argument rages we, meanwhile, can take advantage of university provided courses, delivered on the internet, for absolutely no cost at all.
A new MOOG, run by Newcastle University, on Hadrian’s Wall has just started (on 22nd September) but you can still join and catch up over the weekend – if you have the requisite four hours spare. The materials include a wide selection of videos and articles, accompanied by quizzes and discussions. We’ll be giving it a go, so perhaps we’ll meet each other on the course participant forums.