The latest flock in the surrounding fields arrives nervous and newly shorn. I feel sorry for the poor things. Huddled there in the wet, shivering in the wind.
It might have been better if their clipping had been carried out last month. When the heatwave was on, these animals would have been grateful to lose their heavy coats.
Still, rain, wind or snow, these creatures are great survivors. Especially in this country.
The world’s oldest sheep
Perhaps it is the weather and the impossible terrain that makes them so hardy.
Some years ago, a sturdy blackface ewe from Lewis became a candidate for title of world’s oldest sheep.
Methuselina was approaching the grand old age of 26 when she shuffled off her mortal coil.
What’s more, she did not do it because of natural causes. This long lived but unfortunate creature died after falling off a cliff.
Yes, we can certainly do sheep.
More sheep than people
Cheviots and Hebrideans. North Ronaldsays and Shetlands. Here in Scotland, there are more sheep than people.
And if you need more proof of the 6.7 million woolly quadrapeds that are tottering round these shores, then the British Wool depot in Galashiels is the place to visit.
This week our filming takes us to Scotland’s largest wool grading centre. A place that processes three million tonnes of the stuff each year.
An exclusive club
Everyday lorry loads of fleece arrive at this Borders’s site. They come from all over the country – and here the fluffy coats are checked by hand and sorted.
Being a wool grader means joining an exclusive club. Few people still have this skill. Among them is Kevin, who has worked at the Galashiels plant for forty-four years.
Kevin loves his work – and he shows me his hands. They are as soft as can be. It is all down to the lanolin from sheep’s coats.
Wool is out in the cold
Sheep must be shorn – but at what cost? Over the years a fashion for synthetic fabrics has left wool out in the cold.
Neither has the pandemic helped. The primary outlet for wool is the carpet trade.
But with the main customers – hotels, pubs, and cruise ships – not operating, that market has been at a standstill.
Wool prices are low, and farmers are not happy Let us hope things pick up.
Benny the naughty Norfolk
In the meantime, the job here is to keep the puppy away from our new neighbours.
Bennie the naughty Norfolk spies the white intruders through the fence, and let’s face it, he can easily slip underneath the wire. A close eye is needed.
Country folk will tell you that in the old days the trick was to put a dog in a shed with a ram.
A few rounds on, and the experience generally put paid to any urge Fido might have had to chase sheep round a field.
But I’d be scared that the dog would end up badly injured. Far better to put in some proper training – and sort out a decent fence.
When the weather picks up, we will get to it…