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.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
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: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache, MySQL, Moodle)

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Moodle Developer (PHP ,Linux, Apache...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior .NET Web Developer - Winform / MVC

    £21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Award-winning pharma softw...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Java Developer

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Java Developer is requ...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all