With the success of an extended Wool Week being extended to a full month once more this October, there’s never been a better time to celebrate all things wool.
Harper Adams ABP Chair of Sustainable Beef and Sheep Production Professor Jude Capper has worked with sheep for many years – including during her own studies as an undergraduate at the University.
Yet despite a wealth of experience, even experts can find themselves working with sheep in new ways – as Jude showed when she exercised an ancient right to drive a flock across London Bridge at the end of September.
In this blog, she explains how her involvement in the Sheep Drive came about, how it felt to take part in a historic day – and why she feels Wool Week is important.
It's such an honour to be able to take part in these kind of events that, although now purely ceremonial, both provide a link to our past and help to educate city dwellers and tourists about sheep production.
As we walked to London Bridge, I was stopped by two different groups of people.
This was when we were still more than a mile from the event, but they were already asking whether we were going to herd sheep and why we were doing it.
There was a real positive buzz around both the drive and the associated livery fair and it was great to see so many people being excited about seeing sheep in real-life, rather than from the train window or on the TV.
The whole day was an amazingly fun event - organised by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen and ably assisted by Cadets and Young Freemen.
For the drive itself, groups of 10 people took it in turns to walk the sheep across a designated section of London Bridge.
To take part, people had to be a Freeman of the City of London - as I am - or a supporter of that Freeman - and my family took advantage of this opportunity!
The sheep were remarkably well-behaved - although the walkway was well-fenced, there was all the usual London traffic as well as a lot of passers-by stopping to take photos.
Some young farmers were in charge of shepherding in-between each group, so the sheep weren't too traumatised by being moved by hundreds of different would-be shepherds.
I was glad to be taking part, just days before the start of Wool Week (or Month), which is hugely important!
It gives our whole industry a chance to promote the many wonderful products made from wool and sheep by-products.
These include everything from carpets, to lanolin hand cream, to fine tweeds - and it is also hugely important to help everybody understand just how important sheep are in shaping and maintaining much of our beautiful landscape across the UK.
We should all do everything that we can to get involved - it's..... baa-rilliant!