Sheep at the heart of region’s history

A visual and oral history of shepherding in north Northumberland, including tales of life in the hills, will be on show this weekend.

Visitors to Kirknewton Sheepdog Trials on Sunday will be able to take a trip down memory lane with local shepherds thanks to an exhibition being staged in the village hall by the Sheep Tales project.

As well as photographs of shepherding throughout the 20th century, the exhibition will include audio clips of north Northumbrian shepherds and their families describing their lives in the hills.

There will also be a large craft event alongside the exhibition with demonstrations in traditional wool crafts including felt-making, spinning, knitting, weaving and rug-making, which show that the traditional hearthside skills are very much alive.

Since it was launched last year, Sheep Tales, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed jointly by community arts group Think Make Grow and the North Northumberland Mission Partnership of the United Reformed Church, has been putting together an archive of shepherding memories.

The audio and photographic archives which have been collected are stored at Berwick Record Office, but selections are also available online on the Sheep Tales website –

A package of information, photos, artefacts and audio discs has also been put together for use in schools.

Anna Turnbull, one of the Sheep Tales co-ordinators, said: “We’ve had a tremendous response from shepherds of all ages and that means we have memories stretching from around 1940 right up to the present day.

“It’s amazing how much shepherding and the lives of people living in the countryside have changed over the last half-century.”

Many of the contributors recall evenings round the fire knitting or making rugs and visitors to the Kirknewton event will be able to see local craftspeople demonstrating just how it is done.

Anna added: “We’ve got together a great team of knitters, weavers, spinners, felt-makers and rug-makers who will all be bringing their equipment as well as the end products.”