Sheep farming remains as important as it ever was

Joseph Hardman's iconic photograph

Joseph Hardman's iconic photograph

First published in Opinion

PLANS to recreate a legendary sheep herding photograph taken in Kendal in 1953 are bold, ambitious and fraught with potential logistical problems.

The picture, taken by Joseph Hardman, showed Kendalians going about their daily business as 150 sheep were herded through the town centre.

Fortunately, those behind this month’s reconstruction have selected to do so on a Sunday to minimise potential disruption.

Sixty years ago, the scene Hardman photographed was not uncommon in market towns. Indeed, before livestock lorries existed all sheep and cattle had to be moved this way, whether to the auction mart or abbatoir.

In this region, sheep were often herded to lowland wintering pastures to avoid the harsh winters of the hill farms; and it was not unknown for flocks from the Yorkshire Dales to make this journey so they could live out the winter in relatively benign conditions on farms around Morecambe Bay.

Hardman’s photograph is being recreated to promote the Kendal Wool Gathering and the Westmorland County Show. These events demonstrate how import-ant sheep farming continues to be to Cumbria, north Lancashire and the Dales - well illustrated by a prediction 150,000 sheep will pass through just seven livestock auction marts in Cumbria this autumn.

Although upland farmers continue to have concerns about the future, one South Lakes-based industry leader this week said he remained positive about future prospects. John Geldard, chairman of the National Sheep Association, said there was an ‘upbeat and optimistic’ mood among livestock farmers.

That is good to hear.

While there have been many changes in South Lakeland since Hardman took his iconic image, sheep farming remains as important as it always was.

Those behind the project to recreate Kendal’s ‘sheep rush hour’ deserve praise for coming up with this innovative way to remind us of this.

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