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
ebooks
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
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower