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October 2022

Written for Cumbria Life.


October is such a lovely time of year where I’ve accepted that long summer days are over and I finally start to slow down a little. But that seasonal shift didn’t seem to happen this year. Much like watching nature getting mixed up and blackberries deciding to ripen in August or fruit trees blooming in February, this October felt like the rush of activity when spring gets underway. It was surprising but unsettling too.

My Lake District Tweed project finally materialised. The idea of creating valley specific tweeds came in an inspired moment in September 2021, and it took a full year to see the results. It was twelve months of intermittent bouts of worry when things got bumpy, but I held my nerve and I’m delighted with the results. I was happily sending out all the pre-orders, getting that job done before I started to promote the tweeds, when I took James Rebanks one of our Ullswater throws made with his Herdwick wool. He loved it and very kindly promoted it to his loyal Twitter followers. And that was that. In less than twenty four hours the Ullswater Throw had sold out and we had so many sales of our other products too. I spend days and days packing orders, writing thank you notes and cramming my car with boxes for the post office. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy. In a way, it was good the production took so long as it was the perfect time of year to start selling them – when people start dreaming of baked potatoes, pyjamas by 9pm and thick wool blankets. Or maybe that’s just me!

I’ve just come back from Dumfries House in Scotland. A stately home owed by King Charles with a farm and a great educational remit. I was there with Zoe Fletcher who I work with in The Wool Library. We had been asked to give two presentations at a Prince’s Foundation and Fashion Council Germany conference, called Field, Farm and Fashion for young fashion students and industry experts. It was quite a line up of speakers including the creative director of Harris Tweed. We had been asked specifically to talk about regenerative farming and wool. These things are always nerve wracking but we both just spoke of what we knew with our usual passion for the topics and we were very pleased with the response. The only problem was, it gave me a brilliant idea for a new project…..


As Maria says it’s been a hectic autumn.  Mine has been filled with exhibitions, interviews, conferences, product launches and a bit of farming thrown in between. Oh, and a fair bit of newsworthy chaos chucked at us by our ever changing government. In amongst all this, we managed a very quick busmans holiday to the very top of mainland Scotland to visit the brilliant Joyce Campbell of “This Farming Life” fame. Joyce keeps Cheviot sheep like me and is an excellent stockwoman. We had a wonderful few days visiting farms, buying sheep and absorbing the wildness of the much more open countryside of Caithness.  

The Sale at Lairg is a Mecca for anyone interested in the North Country Lairg-Type Cheviot breed (it’s a connoseurs game). The auction is an old wooden setup, built at the side of the railway, harking back to the days when the sheep would travel south by train. It has an almost Shakespearean experience with the audience sat on terraced wooden benches transfixed by the performance of the shepherds and their sheep in the ring and the musical patter of the auctioneer.  The auctioneer’s patter is different to our own at home so for us it’s much more memorable.

“Look at the skin on that.”

“You won’t go home disappointed.”

“Look at the length on him.”

“You know you want him.”

“He’ll get to work right away.”

“That’s some power.”

Maria said I could use these in my Tinder profile!

I know it’s a long way to go to buy a few sheep but it’s so invigorating to meet up with people as enthusiastic and passionate about farming, nature, cultural heritage and of course sheep. I talked to people from all across the UK and heard shepherds talking in numerous accents from deep broad Scots to fast-flowing Welsh.

To many it must seem strange that most of the crofters, during The Highland Clearances, were driven off their land to be replaced by sheep yet they’re back now, taking such great pride in breeding the very best. But the big change in recent times is another form of clearance, this time to off-set the carbon emissions of big business. Where there were cows, sheep and people there is now nothing. So many empty houses lay crumbling along the roadsides and old buildings falling into ruin. Without employment, there are no families that need them. The stark difference to the Lake District was very evident. Despite the reduction in jobs in agriculture, there is still industry and employment and it makes me even more determined to ensure we do our bit to help keep this a thriving vibrant community. 

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