The Wychwood Woolly Wonders

johntreverssheepfarmingA lot of plans and projects are discussed and enthused over in pubs; however very few ever come to fruition. This is what can happen when they do.

Take six men of a certain age: – A family GP, a banker, a tour director, a farmer and a company director, all retired and in their prime. Then add a sprightly fine art auctioneer in his late fifties and then stir in the usual hip replacements, knee replacements, hernias and bad backs and you have as fine a cross section of Wychwood manhood as you can hope to meet. Place them in a pub, simmer with a few pints and the conversation concludes with the suggestion that a project is needed to keep us all young, active and fit. What did we settle on? For some reason – which temporarily escapes me – we decided to form a sheep cooperative. We would all invest in eight young ewes each, together with a couple of spares and create a flock of fifty sheep. All costs divided equally and the work split across the six members allowing for various ailments, work, caring for grandchildren and holidays.

evenmoresheepThat was a year ago and we have all been on a very steep learning curve. Apart from our retired farmer – who acts as the oracle – we have all had to learn the delights of drenching, injections (very useful having a GP), treating foot infections, dagging (trimming poo clogged fleece from their bottoms) and above all, finding out how determined sheep are to escape and wander into off into someone’s garden or paddock and how difficult it is to get them back into the right field again. This has all been a doddle compared to trying to convince our long suffering wives and partners that the whole concept is not akin to a cross between ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and ‘The Archers’.

The next part of the project was initiated in early November last year when two fine looking rams were introduced to our ladies. We were a little worried when upon release from the trailer the two rams took one look at our assembled flock and ran away to the other end of the field. Aspersions were cast and it was pointed out that being rams of French extraction (they were Charollais) we would have hoped for a more enthusiastic reaction on being presented with fifty English maidens. However, Mother Nature is a wonderful thing and a couple of our more louche and frankly rather tarty ewes trotted up to say hello and batted their ovine eyelashes and the initially bashful rams set about doing what rams do best. The results of their labours arrived at the start of April in the middle of a very wet and very cold period of weather which made lambing very difficult for both sheep and shepherds. However, despite our amateurish approach the ewes produced approximately seventy lambs who are now flourishing in the sunshine and new grass.

It is at this point that readers of this magazine come into the equation. Much as we have grown fond of our flock, keeping an additional seventy lambs just for their aesthetic qualities is not a viable proposition. They have been produced for only one purpose and that is to grace your dining room table.

moresheepFrom the very beginnings of this whole adventure we all said we wanted to keep and grow ‘happy sheep’. This was not some idealised ‘hippy dippy’ concept but an aspiration that our sheep would have lots of fine Cotswold land to live on, they would be grass fed, we would subject them to as little stress as possible and when it came to that final journey we would not send them more than ten miles away. We wanted them to be true ‘locally reared’ animals that we could be proud of and hopefully when you ate them that care and attention would be reflected in the meat.

So, if the concept of eating something local, low mileage and possibly a little over indulged, appeals and you would like a lamb – which is about 18 kilograms – or even half a lamb, fresh or frozen, all jointed and prepared and we will even deliver it to your door -as long as you are as local as our lambs – then send your orders to wychwoodwoollywonderssales@gmail.ocm . The computer will take your order, but you never know, you may get to speak to a member of the Wychwood Woolly Wonders; hospital appointments allowing.

John Trevers

August – September 2018