A sheep, a sheepfold and a Cumbrian garden to enjoy

Liz, Clare and Alice shelter in the Sheepfold
Liz, Clare and Alice shelter in the Sheepfold

Wildroof Landscapes has been one of three local creative businesses combining their skills and enthusiasm to create a sheepfold (complete with Herdwick sheep) as part of a garden design at Cliburn near Penrith.

Liz created the dry stone wall sheepfold structure as part of Wildroof’s landscaping and planting scheme for the garden, which belongs to Alice Underwood. Alice just happens to be a partner in a business called Sheepfold and the addition of a specially-commissioned ceramic sheep’s head from local potter, Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery, has created a unique feature.

“It all seems to fit together beautifully,” says Liz. “We all knew each other separately but Alice’s garden and sheepfold have drawn together our different threads into one project.”

The initial brief for the garden design was to extend the cultivated area of Alice’s garden beyond its current boundary and into her adjacent field. “Alice needed a specific design and drawings for the planning application and I worked on these for her,” says Liz. “The main aim was to create additional space for growing vegetables and fruit and also to enable Alice to grow a collection of traditional dyeing plants. We also decided to incorporate the sheepfold idea as a sheltered seating area that made the most of a focal point overlooking the Lyvennet.”

Alice takes up the story: “Liz’s design for the garden was great and I loved the idea of a sheepfold. Sheepfold, the business, is me and another wool enthusiast, Sue Parker. We specialise in British wool, much of it from the rarer native sheep breeds. As well as selling this wool to knitters, we also design and produce knit-and-felt bag kits, selling them at events, online and through retailers.”

“I’ve been experimenting with natural dyes for several years and was keen to grow more raw materials if I could, one of the reasons for extending the garden. The business also means that I’ve built up a wide network of other craftspeople in and around Cumbria and Clare’s pottery plant markers are already being used in my vegetable garden with our courgettes and runner beans. The project has inspired me to design and make Herdwick cushions for the sheepfold too!”

Clare Farley of Pinfold Pottery at Newton Reigny, offered the final piece in the sheepfold puzzle. She already knew Liz as they’d previously discussed incorporating her stoneware, which is ideal for use outdoors, into garden designs. When Liz introduced Clare to Alice at the Dalemain Garden Festival, the Herdwick head idea was born!

“I use really rough clay, called crank, which is ideal for this type of work,” says Clare. “It’s strong, it can be fired at high temperatures to make it frostproof and it seems to suit the Cumbrian landscape. After lots of research on a friend’s farm, the Herdwick features have taken shape and I hope I’ve captured the breed’s combination of rugged strength and gentle nature for Alice’s piece.”

Clare’s creation is now in pride of place in Alice’s new sheepfold and Liz’s planting scheme and the whole garden are coming into their own as autumn approaches.

“This project has been an absolute joy, combining my passions for crafts and nature,” says Alice. “Once Liz had the inspirational idea of creating a sheepfold, perfect when surrounded by fields with sheep, Clare took on board my love of Herdwicks for the sheep’s head. Naturally I wanted the sheepfold to be cosy, so that was the perfect opportunity to include pure wool cushions with some knitted with Herdwick wool, of course!”

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