Newent Wool and May Hill Sheep

I met Nell Credland, sheep breeder and knitter, with her knitting friends at the Hellens Textile Fair in July this year and was excited to buy wool locally grown to knit an Icelandic Jumper.  Some of you will know these cost upwards of £350, and many of us have wanted one ever since seeing Scandi Noir drama, where fearless and beautiful women detectives, solve impossible and awful crimes, wearing Icelandic jumpers.  

Nell invited me to see her sheep and spend a couple of hours knitting and spinning with friends, one Wednesday afternoon.  Delighted I took the Daffodil Bus from Market House Ledbury, getting off the stop after the Kilcot Arms, near the Aston Ingham turn, then walking back about 30 yards directly onto a footpath that led SE to Nell’s house via Kilcot Wood, Briery Hill and Acorn Woods to come out near her house at Boulsdon. 

The walk took about 40 minutes.  It is also possible to walk from the centre of Newent, straight down Watery lane, in a little under half an hour. 

We did some knitting, had tea and chatted about wool and sheep and knitting patterns and later, Nell’s husband showed me the sheep.  They live in pastures looking towards the Malverns in one direction and the Severn valley and Cotswolds Hills in the other and across many hills and valleys in between.  

Nell keeps Gotlands for their grey high quality fleeces, blue faced Leicesters for their white wool (and their will to live), crossed with Charolais rams for the quality of meat.  They have also added Shetlands into the mix, in the search for coloured wools that need no dyeing.  They keep the sheep on their own land and rented fields around and near the house, getting about the farm on a utility truck that bumps across fields carrying feed and equipment.   

When I saw the sheep, clearly wondering when they saw us, ‘is something going to happen?’ they had been recently shorn, ‘by professionals, the sun was shining, and the grass was lush and all was well.  Inevitably of course the grown-up lambs and worn-out ewes go to slaughter, but they are taken early in the morning to the nearest place, by their owner, and never to market, for the least stress possible.  

Each sheep produces about 1 kg of wool each year, which is about the amount you need for an Icelandic jumper.

You can find out more and buy Nell’s wool from her website (www mayhillgotlands.weebly.com) or watch out for her at local markets and farm shops.

Nell has an open day coming up on 18th October, email mayhillwool@gmail.com for more info.

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