Today we traveled one hour northwest of York to a small country town called Masham for their annual sheep festival. It was only day three of the trip but it has already surpassed all my expectations! I was very excited to see my first UK Lincolns, so upon arriving I headed right to the sheep show. This was a small show so there were only three breeders, but all the sheep were gorgeous. Within ten minutes of arriving, Keith Harding of Swepstone Lincoln Flock roped me into giving him a hand showing. I say "roped in", but really I volunteered! There was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to show a UK Lincoln! I helped him get the sheep ready, and into the showring we went- white coats and all. This show is very relaxed, without an actual show ring, and showing in general is very relaxed here. No touching the feet to set them up, no walking circles around the ring, and only one person showing each sheep. I have to say, it was definitely my type of showing! Keith had two gimmer lambs (ewe lambs) and two ram lambs, but no shearlings (one year old sheep). The judge was Rod Dart from Illinois who is on the trip, and he of course had to give me a hard time in the ring; "When was your lamb born?", "Why does your sheep look dirty?". I had a hard time figuring out how they judge the different pairs. They do top gimmer and top male, followed by top overall sheep where they judge the gimmers against the males. There is also pen of three with one male and two gimmers, but they can be different ages. Keith ended up with top male! This was so much fun and my life is officially complete now! Dad was showing my own sheep at the Big E in Massachusetts today, so I didn't completely slack off :)
Masham is a small town located in the Yorkshire Dales and the sheep fair is one of their biggest events of the year. It began over 30 years ago as a fundraising event and in addition to the sheep show, there is a market, fiber vendors, shearing and herding demonstrations, and dancers. After the show, I spent a lot of time looking at all the different breeds of sheep- most I had never even heard of! I walked through all the vendors and had a delicious lunch (lamb koftas) at a Moroccan cafe on the square. I found a beautiful British tweed fest that I'm so excited to wear, as well as some other sheepy gifts for my mom. This town was quaint, but full of excitement for the fair. Following all the sheep festivities, I got to explore the two local, but quite famous, breweries!
I went to tour Theakston's brewery with Brian and Jennifer, as Brian was very excited to see where "Old Peculiar" is made. Theakston has been brewing beer in Masham for 189 years, and much of it is still done the traditional way, using gravity to move the beer floor to floor through each of the processes. They source their malt from a UK provider who uses UK barley, and the malt is made the traditional way on floors, rather than in stainless vats that I am more familiar with. They use a grist mill to mill the grains and then work their way down through the levels of the brewery to make mash, then make the wort, and all the way to the fermentation vats. Of all the brewery tours I've been on, this one was by far the most unique as they try to keep the process as traditional as possible. The original family still owns the brewery. The beers they are most known for are "Best Bitter" and "Old Peculiar". We tried 8 beers between the three of us, and they were some of the most unique beers I've ever tasted. The beer here tastes different; they are pretty much all ales, which I don't particularly care for in the states, but are much more mild here. Old Peculiar is quite strong, but very delicious, and Best Bitter is so smooth you could drink it all night long!
Our last stop before dinner was the Black Sheep Brewery, also right in the village of Masham. This is the one I was most looking forward to, for obvious reasons! We got there right before last call, so I didn't learn much about the brewery and their process, but I did get to browse their sheep-themed gift shop and taste some of the sheep-themed beers. All were very delicious! I liked the Riggwelter the best, despite not even liking dark ales back home! I wish there was a way to ship a whole case home, since I don't know where to find it in New York- but I'm sure going to look!
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, is currently a graduate student in the Animal Science dept. at Cornell University. She has a passion for Lincoln sheep, and loves educating others about her breed and farm, as serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.
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