Today was one of those days when an old body learns something new! The Lake District, as everyone probably knows, is famous for its sheep rearing. The Herdwick is particularly special to this beautiful National Park. However, it is not an adventure involving a Herdwick that I want to tell you about in this post; it is about another breed of sheep. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the name of the breed for the simple fact that I really do not know!
We went walking in Kentmere today. Our objective was Kentmere Reservoir, and so we followed a sign that pointed upwards to the path that we should take. We walked and we walked and we walked. We hiked up stony tracks, delighted in lush green footpaths, and then, like the proverbial Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz fame, we followed, not the yellow brick road, but a blueback tarmac road. It was not a difficult walk, and the scenery was stunning – but we never reached the reservoir. The day was turning chilly despite bright sunshine, and it was getting late. The last thing we wanted was to be left tramping in darkness as we returned to our starting point.
It was on our way back that we came upon one very angry sheep. Horatio was walking nicely on the lead, and we were both taking in the stunning scenery and chatting inconsequentially when I pointed out some sheep ahead of us. Some were feeding, whilst others began to slowly walk cross the aforementioned newly tarmacked road. And then, came the leader of the flock. She walked into the middle of this narrow road, called her followers around her, and together they stood facing us in what one can only call a stand-off!
Horatio, good boy that he was, stayed quiescent on his lead. He was alert, but quiet. We stood still, neither moving forward nor backing up. Some 25 feet away, the sheep stood to attention. Their leader, lifting her head, stood tall . . . her body taut and feet ramrod straight. And stared at us. It was an unblinking stare.
For some moments, all was still and quiet. And then, she moved forward and stamped her left front foot. We didn’t move. To tell the truth, we were too afraid even to twitch! We didn’t want to jeopardise the fragile entente, and we didn’t want Horatio to suddenly dart ‘sheep-ward’. But Horatio was good as gold. Seeing no reaction from us, the leader maintained her stance, whilst her friends bunched more tightly around her. She never removed her eyes from us. That stare was unnerving.
One minute passed. And then perhaps another minute went by. By this time, we were wondering how we would get past the sheep with Horatio in tow. Nonetheless, we stayed put, unmoving.
And then, the sheep stepped towards us again. This time, she lifted up her other front foot and stamped upon the ground, whilst looking us in the eye with that inimical stare. Again, we kept still. It was an impasse! Whilst she looked daggers at us, I was wondering what it might be like were she and her fellow sheep to rush us. I am almost certain that sheep can run faster than humans.
But we were to be spared that ignominy. Some in her group must have decided that the grass on the other side was greener. They crossed the road over to the opposite verge. More followed. She, however, never wavered until her band had almost fully disbanded. And then she walked a few feet towards the opposite verge as if to say, “I will give you just one chance. Cross, if you dare.” We took that opportune moment and walked unhurriedly past her so as not to arouse any further ire on her part.
Robert and Horatio walked faster than I did. As I walked past, Robert told me that the leader was following me. I turned back to see, and indeed she was. Perhaps she was simply making sure that we were truly on our way and would leave them alone to enjoy their dinner. My one thought was that I had never seen sheep behaving like this before except in cartoons or animated films. In my mind, I could just imagine them as characters in the movie, Babe. Can animals really behave like this? Well, I know our eyes certainly didn’t deceive us!
So, that’s our adventure of the day. Who was more frightened in this adventure? The sheep which decided to make a stand for their rights; the dog; or Robert and me? I couldn’t really say, but I think we can discount the animals, and point the finger at the humans.
(P.S. I wish I had had the opportunity to take a video or at least photos of that sheep and her group standing defiantly up against us when it all this happened; but truly I could think of nothing else except for a means to get past their guard before it got dark!)
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