Today we headed an hour and a half south to the city of Lincoln. It was a cooler, drizzly day with rain on and off, but nothing too substantial. While everyone else headed to the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, I headed to the Lincoln Cathedral. The cathedral is an important icon for the city of Lincoln and I was interested to see how it compared to the York Minster. It began construction in 1192 and continued until around 1245. In 1237 the central tower collapsed (similar to the York Minster) and in 1311 the tower was replaced by a spire that made it the tallest building in the world for nearly 238 years. I had less than hour to walk around and had just missed the 11:00am tour so the lady at the entrance gave me some great pamphlets and information to do a quick tour myself. The nave of the Lincoln seemed slightly bigger, and I really enjoyed all the stained glass. The glass windows seemed brighter than those in the York Minster, probably because more of them have been renovated. Along the side of the nave were the most beautiful depictions of the twelve stations I have ever seen, carved completely from wood! This cathedral had a north and south transept, just like the York, with a choir right behind them. When I arrived, someone was practicing at the organ in the choir and whole church was filled with music. It gave me chills! The church contains a treasury, which now houses a collection of artifacts from the church. There were challis that dated back to the 14th century and earlier! That’s a piece of silver that was used for communion before our county was even thought of! The age was just astonishing! While chatting with a woman in the treasury, the Duty Clerk came in and I had a really nice talk with him about his role as the Duty Clerk and the prayers and Eucharist services he conducts daily. Along the north transept is a cloister with windows that look out into a grassy yard. That was one of the most beautiful parts to me. In the back of the church, there is a little carving on a column called an imp. The story is that he caused so much havoc that one of the angels turned him into stone. I began to run out of time by the time I got to the back of the church, so rushed through the small prayer rooms to the south. I stopped to enjoy the fount at the back of the nave before leaving. The fount is made of marble and was constructed in the 12th century. It is still used for baptisms today. I ended up with a few extra minutes and walked into some of the cute shops in Lincoln on my way back to meet the group.
Following our quick stop in Lincoln, we got lunches to go and headed to Martyn Robinson’s flock in Yaddlethorpe. His flock consists of 25 Lincoln ewes and nearly 330 commercial ewes on 200 acres of pasture. For his commercial ewe flock, he follows a stratification breeding scheme that works its way from highland breeds like Swaledown or North Country Cheviot draft ewes, then are bred to longwools, then finally to a terminal breed where the lambs are fattened for market. Each generation consists of a different cross to suit his needs for breeding vs. market lambs. He calls most of his sheep “mules” which are a Blueface Leicester crossed with a Swaledale. Other crosses with the highland sheep include “Scotch Half Bred” which is a High Country Cheviot x Border Leicester and a “Masham”, a Wensleydale x Swaledale. This was my first experience on an English farm, and I could not get over how lush the pastures were! I would do anything to get pastures like they have here! Martin has a working dog named Violet who brought the ewes at the back of the pasture up for us to see. It is always amazing to see a border collie in action, and it really makes me see usefulness of having one! Right now he is “tupping” (ie. Breeding; the rams are in with the ewes), and he has several groups of commercial sheep, and one of purebred Lincolns.
After walking around and seeing the different groups on pasture, we came back to the barns and had a judging contest. Martyn separated out four gimmers (ewe lambs) and four tups (ram lambs) for us to judge. The closest to the “official” judge, a long-time Lincoln breeder named Ron, won a prize! The lambs were all of such good quality that it was so difficult to separate them out. I would have taken any of them home with me! While in the barn, Martyn showed us his electronic ID tags (EID) that have become cumpolsory if you plan to sell your lambs at auction. You use a wand to scan the tag and a little computer tablet connected via Bluetooth will tell you the date of birth, the sire and dam, vaccinations/worming schedules, and even weights. He has a weigh scale that is also connected to the system and will automatically record the weights as they pass the scale.
After we were chilly and damp enough, we headed up to Martyn’s house to meet his wife Rosemary for tea. There were several other Lincoln breeders from around the area who came to join us as well. Rosemary prepared an amazing spread of cookies, cakes and sandwiches, as well as drinks for us to enjoy for the afternoon. They even had a Longwool beer, brewed by a local Lincolnshire brewery. While it wasn’t the best beer I’ve tasted since I’ve been here, I think I have to deem it as one of my favorites, for obvious reasons. It was such a pleasure to sit and enjoy delicious food and everyone’s company for a few hours and everyone enjoyed themselves relaxing and chatting about sheep and fiber arts. Toward the end of our stay they announced the winner of the judging contest, and I won! No idea how, but I won a 2017 calendar from their Lincoln Association.
We finished the day with a dinner at a very authentic Italian restaurant in York, and stopped at a little corner store to find some Yorkshire tea for my grandma. The exhaustion is setting in, but thankfully the bus rides are giving me plenty of time to nap.
Emmaline Long, main owner of Orchard View Farm, has a passion for Lincoln sheep and loves educating others about her breed and farm, She currently serves as the Vice President of the National Lincoln Breeders Association.