Counting Sheep: A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain Hardcover – 3 Apr 2014
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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)
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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...
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about the different kinds of sheep. Interesting tidbits about sheep and sheep farming but not really for the average person as there... Read morePublished 26 days ago by Erich Beck
A present for my daughter, so cannot comment on the contents, bur service excellentPublished 1 month ago by hilary dunlop
Shows how brutal and nasty the farming life can be. A book I will think twice about sharing with friends when the author gives full descriptions of shepherds killing lambs on North... Read morePublished 2 months ago by R. Kenyon
An easy read and an introduction to sheep. Who knew there were so many breeds and that they were so useful.Published 3 months ago by J. Stephenson
Very informative on sheep. Not so informative in the final analysis; in fact the last chapter is little more than a misinformed rant. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Steve
Bought this for my sheep farming Father. It's a wonderful book of excellent quality and the delivery was very fast. Read morePublished 7 months ago by EGBW
I bought this book for someone else and their feedback was excellent, really enjoyed the read. Contains excellent photo's also.Published 11 months ago by asheycat