I can’t believe that 20 days have passed since my last post but why this should be so is in part explained by the title above. I’ve been longing to use it; improbable though it may seem, the fact is that I do indeed have flocks to watch.
This may have little to do with art, except use up time which might be spent painting; but the fact is that since the sheep arrived, I have enjoyed a burst of creativity. The sheep in question form the bulk of the National Trust Rare Breeds flock from Orford Ness. We have been over several times during the summer/autumn to see them, for we had the privilege of keeping an eye on them earlier this year when they also came to Snape (see Commentary above, Jan-March). Now they, including some who were here before, have arrived earlier (6 December) to spend their winter on balmy Snape Warren. Since they arrived, the weather has in fact thrown the lot at them: a gale, heavy rain, snow, sleet, ice and temperatures a few degrees both sides of 0. Still, it might have been worse on the Ness, which is more exposed and has the added joy of threatened flooding. My role on Snape Warren, as previously, is ‘to keep an eye’ on them; to this end I have given myself the title of Volunteer, Temporary, Part-time Assistant sous shepherd (VTPTASS). In practice, this means inspecting them once if not twice a day.
‘My’, or I should say ‘Our’ since I am aided by my partner in her role as sous sous shepherd, sheep are indeed in two flocks: four ram lambs:
The four ram lambs: three White-faced Woodlands and a Loaghtan
understandably kept by themselves in one large field; and a flock of 44 mixed rare breeds, with 13 White-faced Woodlands the largest number of a particular breed. We also have Manx Loaghtans (several spellings of the name are in use but this is the one used by the breeders’ association of this breed), Jacobs and various Herbrideans, plus sundry crosses.
They are also in a big field of rough grazing but they are meant to venture forth therefrom to eat on the adjacent RSPB heathland Reserve where the heather and grassses are in danger of being swamped by gorse, bracken and brambles. Well, they have and they have not ventured forth, and more of that I hope tomorrow when not much happens; meanwhile, to sleep perchance, for we must be up betimes tomorrow to watch our flocks: yes, for real, Christmas day or not. What a privilege.