Sussex Shepherds

Sussex Shepherds

There are shepherds on the Sussex downs now, as there have been through the centuries. Today’s shepherd has much knowledge and skill in common with his or her forebears. Lambing in the early spring, shearing in the summer, the seasonal rhythm is the same. But there are big differences too. Sussex shepherds today raise their sheep mainly for meat; in earlier centuries they raised them mainly for their wool, and for fertilising the arable fields by dunging where the shepherds put up temporary folds. Sussex shepherds today may be seen (with their sheepdogs) on quad bikes and tractors; before the days of wire fencing enclosing the fields, they followed and drove their flocks on foot. It was often a lonely profession, though sociable in the sheep shearing gangs, the sheepwash and the market days. The last of the old Sussex shepherds, with their distinctive practices, equipment and lore; silent on the hills, besmocked and crook in hand; kept to their ways, and made a strong impression on those whose lives were changing around them.