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Farm Animals - Sheep

 Sheep At Longstone Edge

As a visitor to the Peak District, you may have noticed we are the home to two very diverse and distinctive landscapes, the White Peak and the Dark Peak. The two areas have different underlying rock types, the limestone of the White Peak giving its name and the gritstone and shale of the Dark Peak. The rocks shape the land, but also determine the type of farming available to it.


Sheep on the moors with peak district national park

Sheep can graze almost everywhere in the Peak District and they do, creating a quintessentially English countryside scene with little white dots littering the lush green fields, complementing the dry stone walls of the White Peak. In contrast, the sheep of the dark Peak are wild and woolly, hardened to life on the moors and fighting for their survival in harsh winters, sheep befitting a Bronte novel.


Sheep on cold wnters morning basking in what warmth there is in the sunshine


Limestone shapes the landscape in the White Peak, the criss crossed walls penning in flocks of sheep and their young. Farm buildings from clusters of grey stone buildings and provide shelter for the sheep living happily alongside dairy cattle and traditionally, sheep graze the highly, poorer quality rough grazing land of the Dark Peak.
The Derbyshire gritstone sheep originated on the hills of the Dale of Goyt, better known now as the Goyt Valley, on the edge of the Peak District around the year 1770. It is one of the oldest of British hill breeds and by 1850 the farmers in the locality established uniformity in the breed, aiming at producing hardy, disease resistant animals that could withstand the harsh winters on poor ground. Interest in the sheep grew and in 1906, farmers came together to form the Derbyshire gritstone Sheep Breeders Society under the presidency of the eighth Duke of Devonshire.

escaping sheep from field


There were 20 flocks which would become recognised as Derbyshire gritstone sheep in an area of about 80 square miles in the Peak District area. From these 20 individual flocks the Derbyshire gritstone sheep have expanded their territory to Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Wales and Scotland and even at all to the outer islands. They are very hardy sheep with good milk yielding qualities and have a good little flow capacity from poor hill land. The wool is of superior quality and has won prizes for exhibits at the very highest level.  The Derbyshire gritstone sheep is now well known in the upland areas of the UK.

sheep above Grindleford in Derbyshire


As one of the oldest of sheep breeds, it is hornless, hardy and robust. It has a vigorous constitution and is agile and neatly proportioned, compact and strong placed shoulders on a well balanced frame. It has a clean cut black-and-white marked face and legs and its body is well filled, the fleeces uniform and dense. It is also weather resistance which is imperative to survive on the moors. They are quite a common site balanced precariously on the gritstone edges, defying death with their acrobatics.
The white faced woodland sheep originate from the South Pennines but are still found in abundance in the Peak District. They are known as the Penistone Sheep, after the market town just north of Sheffield, where sales have taken place in 1699. These are just some of the largest hill sheep, driving in lowland areas and have a white fleece which dyes well. Both sexes have the ram's horns spiralling decoratively outwards.


Shy sheep


The Peak District is home to a variety of different sheep breeds with various farms breeding their own rare breeds for sale in the various farmers markets and farm shops we have here throughout Derbyshire. The sheep at Chatsworth number quite a few thousand and with different breeds such as the Jacobs, Mashams, Swaledale's and Mules, when it's lambing time, the 5 1/2 acres of moorland and grazing at Chatsworth is littered with a wide range of little woolly bodies!

Warmth of mothers body is comforting for this young sheep


magpies helping the sheep keep their ears clear of tics

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