• 19 That's what it's all about!

    Captions? When Jean Wilson (pictured left with her husband Derek on the right) wins Champion and James Rebanks (centre) gets reserve champion, just what is it that she says that makes them laugh like that?

    The morning’s judging of Herdwicks at Patterdale Shepherds Meet took in many different classes. Best aged tup (won this year by Gavin Bland); best three year old tup (Jean’s tup came first in this class); best shearling tup (James); best tup lamb (Jean) ... and more. But the champion is the one everyone holds out for.

    Days of hard work and preparation went into this show: choosing the right sheep, cleaning them, colouring them with reddel, double checking the choices ... There is even a bit of stress, because the sheep in the ring are a mark of a good flock, and are a mark of good stockmanship; both are a matter of pride and add to the prices sheep will fetch at the market. Quality matters. Yet any tension is balanced with good humoured banter. This year when Jean Wilson and James Rebanks were both in the running for the prize of Champion Herdwick, there was heavy silence as their sheep were looked over, punctuated with gentle chatter and the occasional joke.

    There’s is good natured rivalry between them. Jean has a reputation as an excellent breeder, and is highly thought of. And she is something of a mentor to James – ‘She started me off with my first Herdwick ewes, and she’s taught me most of what I know about them.’ This year, they were, of course, equally keen to walk away with the Champion’s shield ... but there can only be one winner.

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