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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2014
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2014
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2014
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 21 April 2014
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2014
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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2014
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2014
Essential reading for all DEFRA officials, this book combines the authors love of the countryside with a factual and readab le account of the development of the sheep rearing industry. A great deal of common sense is to be found here, coupled with more than a pinch of criticism of the governmental misdirection of the Foot and Mouth Crisis.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2014
Absolutely first rate. I live in the country and have farming friends although I am not a farmer myself. I found this book completely engrossing with the technical details of breeding lightened by the human interest of the anecdotes and giving cause for thought by the deeply felt horror of the mass slaughter.
I intend to give a copy of the book to an old friend for his 70th birthday. He has been a farmer all his life with a great interest in and knowledge of sheep. I await his more knowledgeable comments with interest.
The author is a born writer and I Ilook forward to his further books on this or other topics with interest
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 May 2014
I already have a strong interest in all aspects of sheep but there is far more in this book which I found very interesting and completely new.
I first heard about the author on BBC Radio4 and and had to know more.
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