We miss our sheep. So a fortnight ago we took the ferry across to Orford Ness to visit them in their summer abode. We straightaway met the four rams whom we had first welcomed to Snape Warren back last November; when they moved on to Dunwich, we visited them on several occasions. Now they were relishing the thick grass on the sea defence bank, with some shelter provided by the trailer in which they travelled. We like to think they recognised us for our own sake, while suspecting that what they actually remembered was the rattle of the stock nuts in their boxes. Anyway, they came running, which was nice. The rest of the sheep were more distant: a lot of them, with their multitude of lambs, were over by the NT offices, while the rest of the flock was way to the north in a huge area of drained grassland where there was no human interference. Only the sous sous shepherd reached one of the three sub-flocks into which they had divided themselves, and they were not ‘ours’.
It was good to see them in plentiful pasturage after the poor grass they had had to put up with in February/March at Snape during tough times in bad weather. Still, we all came through it – and there were good days. The professional photograph below is used here as a memento of our time together. It was taken on 13 March late in the afternoon after a long, cold wait to get the sun in the right position; we chose the date in advance and just happened to get it right. Of course, the scene is posed to a certain extent, for there was quite a lot of kit in position in order to take the image; but on the other hand about 200 shots, and video, were taken, and both sheep and shepherd behaved quite naturally during that time. Bob Foyers, to whom I am grateful for being able to use this photograph here, chose the shots.
The foreground, as always, is dominated by Whitefaced Woodlands, the friendliest and most curious of the breeds – that on the right, for example, is on her way to inspect the camera. But even sheep can be surreptitious: most of the WfWs were pregnant and none of them told the sous shepherd. The flock numbered 44 at the time and most of them, some also pregnant, can be seen in the background, a mixture of Jacobs, Loaghtans, Hebrideans and various cross-breeds.
Thank you, all, for a memorable winter one way and another. The experience sometimes shows in my current paintings too, which is a bonus – though not necessarily when a disaster image emerges with sheep falling to bits. Of which, more anon …..
This weekend I’m going on a course called ‘Landscape towards Abstraction’. This is exactly the abyss I wish to cross. Will I know the Truth by Sunday evening? – another reason to watch this space …