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Counting Sheep: A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain Hardcover – 3 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (3 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846685044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846685040
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Jacobs are yet another breed supposed to have swum ashore from a wrecked ship, this time a Spanish galleon in 1588. These were gentlemen's sheep, and commercial farmers would be disdainful of their being kept as ornaments with no concern for profit. To their gentle owners they were living lawn mowers that bred their own replacements and needed no fuel. But to a working farmer they were (and still are) little better than goats, and a damned nuisance. (From Counting Sheep)

Philip Walling has written a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable account of this shared history... after reading this book you may look at a sheep, or a roast lamb, or a tweed jacket, with the glimmerings of a new appreciation.' (Angus Clarke The Times 2014-04-05)

Delightful ... Counting Sheep deserves its place on the bookshelf of any lover of the countryside. (Horatio Clare Daily Telegraph 2014-04-12)

Book Description

Long before we were a nation of shopkeepers, Britain was a nation of sheep. Full of stories, history, trivia and humour, Counting Sheep explores Britain through its most influential animal.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Gwilym Anthony on 13 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a handy reference in order to learn more about the sheep I encounter when walking in the Lake District and the Chilterns. It is indeed an excellent reference book, but is far more than that.
The author is immensely knowledgeable about his subject but wears his learning lightly and writes with self-deprecation and humour. He communicates simply and clearly and his prose is at times lyrical, at times elegiac, as when he confronts the dreadful slaughter during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 and its lasting impact on our farming.
He places sheep farming in its historical context and covers the sweep of history, from ancient times to the present. He makes the point, and I find it convincing, that many things in the countryside which we assume are gone are still there: they have simply become invisible to us because we have forgotten how to look for them.
There's a section on each of the main breeds of sheep, putting them in both their regional and historic context, along with a delightful and informative chapter on sheepdogs and a closing chapter looking towards the future.
This is a beautifully written book by a writer with great empathy for his subject, and I recommend it highly.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Simj on 29 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have kept sheep for many years and have one remaining 'lady' with me now from the maximum of sixty at my prime. She is now 19 years and very special as you can imagine. I do miss the whole shepherding scene and so when this title jumped out at me, I was hooked. An excellent book, one I would have loved, when actually in the midst of all the activity. I am going to buy the book as it is one I want to actually handle.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Ann Sinclair on 21 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
I bought this for a sheep farming friend. He has yet to receive it...... I'm really enjoying the book. I'm not usually a reader of factual books, nor was I aware of having an interest in sheep but this is easy to read, interesting and full of ovine ephemera which will come in very handy should I be invited to a sheep farmers' convention. Buy it!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Erin Britton on 4 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
Armed with a clear love of the countryside and a definite fondness for the peculiar, Philip Walling has trekked across Britain in an attempt to better understand the provenance and importance of many of the native breeds of sheep that thrive here. Counting Sheep is his account of the history and current state of sheep farming in this country and of the lives of those who make their living from the countryside. It is an interesting book that illuminates an important area of British life and Britishness that is often overlooked in the modern world.
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Format: Hardcover
Last year I walked Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast from St Bees Head to Robin Hood Bay. As I strode for 11 days across the northern counties of England, I was struck daily not only by the astonishing beauty and variety of countryside but by the countless fields and varieties of sheep encountered throughout the route.

Having done most of my previous walking in the Lake District, I was very familiar with the iconic and endearing Herdwick breed, but had my interest piqued by the huge numbers of sheep which, despite foot-and-mouth and the threat of economic oblivion, still graze and preserve much of our most scenic countryside. I was equally intrigued by encountering numerous sheep of appearance and behaviour unlike others I had seen before.

On a recent trip back to the Lakes I stumbled over this eloquently written and lovingly researched book while searching for a 'Sheep Spotter's Guide' in order to put names to some of the faces I had met last year. This book partially achieves that, although it covers and provides photos of only a few of the 100+ breeds yet to be found in the fields of Britain. However, I was instantly captured by the lyrical prose and the all-pervading love for the subject matter of a man who has both lived and researched his field.

As another reviewer has noted, the author, who worked with sheep for years in the Lake District, clearly has a very soft spot for the local Herdwick breed and the chapter devoted (in both senses) to them is a high point. However, I challenge any reader to come away from this book without having developed a fondness and respect for all breeds of this thoroughly under-remarked and underestimated creature, for the folk who have bred and farmed them through the ages and also a wistful fearfulness for all that our country and countryside might yet lose a result of the numerous threats ranged against our national flock. You'll certainly never look at a sheep in the same way again...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Northern traveller on 13 July 2014
Format: Hardcover
Having stumbled across this title looking for something for holiday reading I downloaded a sample and then immediately the book which I found absolutely gripping - I don't keep sheep or have any connection with farming !
It is not necessary to have any previous knowledge or interest in the subject but it will leave you fascinated. Just as fiction can be an escape - Counting Sheep was a true escape and was a great holiday read which I am certain to re-read. I would recommend it to everyone who has never given sheep much of a thought; you will be glad you did. The images at the end of the book are a delight as is the authors style - precise but almost conversational.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lango on 8 Jun 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this to be a very interesting read but only wish I could retain in my head the nuances of the cross breeding of the various breeds of sheep. I loved the chapter on Herdwicks, for which the author obviously has a soft spot. They are also my favourites. If you wish to know more about those woolly jumpers on legs that inhabit our fields, this is the book for you.
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