Flock star: A shepherd in the Lake District now has almost 20,000 Twitter followers

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Simon Usborne asks @HerdyShepherd1 how he came to have such a large 'farmy army'

A shepherd has earned unlikely online fame after tweeting anonymously among his sheep in the Lake District. @HerdyShepherd1, who wants his prized Herdwicks to be the stars of his feed, has drawn almost 20,000 followers with his updates and views from the hills.

A technophobe converted after a phone upgrade, he says the brevity and immediacy of Twitter make it the perfect way to connect an old world to a new audience. In that spirit, he agreed to be interviewed by way of the direct-messaging service.

Hi Herdy. Tell me what you're seeing right now.

I'm feeding a flock of our sheep surrounded by the fells of the Lake District. So a mass of grey fleeces and bright white heads… I see it every day, but I never get bored of it.

But isn't it dark now?

I'm answering these questions as if I'm shepherding tomorrow morning! I won't have time then. Is that wrong?

Oh! I'd pictured you with a torch typing in bursts with fingerless gloves… Are you surprised by how little some people know about farming?

No. Our past as the first industrialised nation means that for a long time we were increasingly divorced from knowing about farming… It still shocks when you have school groups and some of them have never been to a farm.

What sorts of things do they say?

One kid asked me if we kill sheep to get the wool off or just pull it off.

Like a jumper. That would be much easier. Is that why you turned to Twitter?

Yes. I was frustrated that we are reduced to stereotypes that don't reflect farming people I know and grew up among… hard-working, decent people who care deeply about their landscape… But are also smart and funny.

Are you successfully challenging this?

Ha… I may not be. But there seems to be a widespread appetite to understand what we do...

How many followers did you expect to gain?

I had no expectation anyone would follow us. I would have stopped fairly quickly. But within a day or two it was obvious… Our farming interested hundreds of other people… Much to my family and friends' amusement.

When you say "us"…?

There is no "me". The stars are the sheep, sheepdogs and the valley where we live.

How long has your family been shepherding?

Our family tree peters out in the nearby villages in 1420 and they were always farming people.

Do older relatives struggle to understand your tweeting project?

Yes, my dad. But I've tried to do it respectfully and now he follows on my mother's phone!

What does your wife make of your tweeting?

Bugs the hell out of her! Distracts me from doing what I'm told promptly…

Tell me about your sheep. Are they too numerous to relate to individually?

We run 350-500 ewes and followers. So sometimes as many as 1,000 in the summer…

We know nearly all of our ewes individually and yes, we relate to them… You get to know their characters and their offspring… Sheep are as individual as characters as people are… They look and act differently. Some are bossy, others shy, some friendly.

And how do you relate to your dogs?

They're working animals but ones you have a lot of affection for… So Floss sneaks in to the house for a cuddle some nights.

Has this project taught you anything?

Yes, I think it makes you focus on little details more… And to be honest I think I spend more time looking at my pics than anyone else…

It lets me look at the sheep after dark and make judgments about breeding or their health… But mostly it's made me realise that what most people think is mundane and beneath their attention as culture is actually… Something of great interest to lots of people.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own