Herdwicks: 2013


How could you not fall in love with this tea towel? It is so cute. Look at the faces of those sheep; you almost feel you could touch them.

In 2013, I went to the Lake District for a week, not my first trip. This year everything was about Herdwicks; I’m not sure I was particularly aware of them before. There must have been a great marketing plan because there is a shop dedicated to selling merchandise about Herdwicks, commonly referred to as Herdys. They had key rings, coasters, tea towels (not this one), mouse mats, greetings cards; you want it they had it. This, however, was the only merchandise I saw that had a real picture of  Herdwicks  as opposed to the ‘cartoon’ image.

I hadn’t realised that not only are Herdwicks the native breed of sheep in the Lake District but 95% of all Herdwicks live within 14 miles of Coniston. The lambs are born black; after a year they lighten to a dark brown. After their first shearing their coat lightens further to grey. Herdwicks survive on forage, no artificial food for them; they lamb and rear their young on the fells. If you look at the fells in the Lake District covered with sheep and wonder how the farmers know which are their sheep, the answer is easy. If you keep Herdwicks, they are very territorial and do not stray from the land their owner has introduced them to. It’s called ‘heafing’.

Beatrix Potter moved to the Lake District, after she became famous, and took up farming; she kept Herdwicks and on her death she left the fifteen farms she owned to the National Trust on condition they continued to farm Herdwicks (see the film Miss Potter).

When I look at this tea towel, the thing I remember most is that just before I left home to start the holiday I had an accident in the garden, fell and cut my face open, fractured my cheek bone, broke three ribs and bruised the whole of my face so I looked as though I had been beaten up. I spent four hours in the walk-in centre having my face repaired before setting off.  Then I remember  sitting for three hours looking at a flock of Herdwicks in the middle of nowhere while waiting for the RAC because the car got a flat tyre through hitting a ‘hidden’ pot hole.

Herdwicks were everywhere and I have a camera load of photos to prove it which I have to say is much nicer to look at than the ever changing colours of the bruises on my face which I also have a lot of photos of.

Update: 1 November 2015


I can’t believe that I have now found another tea towel that I bought in 2013 about Herdwicks; it has come to the top of my pile in the airing cupboard.  Because Herdwicks are the traditional breed of the Lake District, popularised by the film Miss Potter, there is a real branding issue for the Herdwicks.  There is a shop in Coniston dedicated to ‘Herdie’ products; mugs, erasers, mobile phone trinkets, table mats, aprons, mouse mats, coasters and of course the inevitable tea towel.  And here is one.  It is a great marketing brand!  Lots of people got Herdie products for Christmas that year!!

Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum



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