CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Adam Henson: Give fleece a chance

PUBLISHED: 18:13 12 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013

Adam Henson: Give fleece a chance

Adam Henson: Give fleece a chance

The wool of our Cotswold sheep is the loveliest of the lot – thick, lustrous and smooth to the touch says Adam Henson

"In Europe the best wool is English and in England the best wool is Cotswold". For a sheep farmer like me that 12th century saying is music to my ears. The quality of our local wool was so well regarded in the Middle Ages that its thought the old Flemish weavers even used to sing about it. Here on the Farm Park were busy shearing our entire flock of 900 sheep at the moment. So theres plenty of wool around the place and of course the fleece of our county breed, the Cotswold, is the loveliest of the lot. Its thick, lustrous and smooth to the touch thanks to the lanolin within it. The word lanolin comes from the original Latin, meaning wool oil, and its a perfect description. This stuff is Mother Natures waterproofing.



Across the country, shearing follows the season, so it happens a little earlier in Cornwall than it does in the Cotswolds, which in turn is a bit ahead of Scotland. These days much of the work is done by gangs of experienced shearers who travel north across the country working from farm to farm. Its back breaking work but theyre as keen as mustard and as quick as lightning. The sheep are gathered into handling pens and a really good shearer can get through 250 or even 300 animals in a day. Now I think Im pretty good with a pair of electric clippers but my limit is about 100, so I take my hat off to these guys.



Incidentally, if you bump into a sheep shearer in your local pub one evening and you fancy a chat, dont expect to hear an English accent. As with so many menial jobs these days, it just doesnt attract the native workforce. Most gangs are from Down Under. Australians and New Zealanders are drawn to it by the huge sums of money they can make, the chance to travel the world and it also appeals to their inbuilt sense of competitiveness. The challenge is to get the entire fleece off the sheep in one piece so that it can be rolled and bagged into what are still referred to as woolsacks. For centuries pack ponies would carry two of these woolsacks at a time, down from the hill farms into the weaving towns. The shearing gangs want to get through a farmers entire flock in a day and then move on. Its a different story for us because so many Farm Park visitors want to see what happens, so we stagger the work and only shear a few sheep each day.



Im often asked what happens to the fleece once its removed. Well, all the coloured wool is bought by spinners and weavers while the white fleeces are sold to the British Wool Marketing Board which runs a centralised system to help get the best possible profit for the stuff. Obviously the price for the coarser wool from mountain breeds like Herdwicks will be much lower than the finer, more versatile long wool of the Cotswolds. The decline in the sheep populations of Australia and New Zealand, coupled with increased demand for wool in China, has pushed the price up recently. Even so, on average UK farmers can still only expect to make about 75 pence per pound. The sad part of this story is that for many people, shearing simply isnt economical. The price the farmer gets for his wool barely covers the cost of having it shorn.



Regular Countryfile viewers will know that Im on a bit of a crusade when it comes to encouraging more people to buy products made of British wool. After all, what could be more traditional, natural, sustainable and renewable? You might have even seen me doing my bit to promote the industry by wearing a beautiful wool suit from Savile Row as I drove a flock of sheep through the centre of Stow-on-the-Wold. If you share my views on this often overlooked natural fibre, there are lots of things you can do to help. For a start, the Campaign for Wool is always looking for new members. You could sign up for a sheep shearing course to find out more or join in with National Wool Week from September 5-11. But perhaps the easiest way to help is to make sure you buy and wear British wool whenever possible. To misquote the late, great John Lennon: all I am saying is give fleece a chance.



Cotswold Farm Park, Guiting Power, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 5UG


Tel: 01451 850307; Fax: 01451 850423


Email: info@cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk


0 comments

More from People

Yesterday, 11:53

Helping clients through divorce, separation and disputes over children, we talk to 8 divorce lawyers in the Cotswolds

Read more
Yesterday, 11:52

We’ve some extraordinary, and inspiring, women in business in the Cotswolds. We talk to 7 female trailblazers in local industry who offer the business advice they’ve lived by

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

25 years in business is no mean feat – and the owner of Lauren’s Catering has lost none of his ambition

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Julian Dunkerton has moved his family’s cider-making business from Herefordshire to the outskirts of Cheltenham, where it boasts a state-of-the-art production unit and a stylish new shop. But don’t think the heart of the business has changed one whit: it still honours the core values Ivor and Susie Dunkerton held dear when they planted their first apple tree, nearly 40 years ago

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

If you want to spread some Christmas cheer to those in need, here are some fantastic charities in the Cotswolds to donate to

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Harnessing the power of social media, charity awards and dreaming up new projects - it’s all in a day’s work for Gloucestershire children’s charity Pied Piper and its corporate supporters

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cotswolds’ very own Prince of Wales turns 70 this month, so we looked back on some of the highlights of his life and career, and wondered what birthday pressies we would buy for the man who has the world at his feet

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When landowners are looking to sell their land, and want a transparent journey that delivers them best value, Rosconn Strategic Land is here to take them through the process.

Read more

Radio DJ Paul Gambaccini has secured a payout from prosecutors over unfounded allegations of historical sex offences. The presenter, 69, was arrested in 2013 over a claim he sexually assaulted two teenage boys in the early 1980s. Mr Gambaccini always denied the claims, calling the case “completely fictitious”. He spent a year on bail before the case was dropped. Two years later he gave this interview to Katie Jarvis

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Barn Theatre’s artistic director, Iwan Lewis, talks to Candia McKormack about a rather special project aimed at bringing the Cotswold community together in commemoration of the Great War’s fallen

Read more
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The environmental charity set up to protect Stroud’s industrial heritage now enhances the lives of its own volunteers. Katie Jarvis meets chief executive Clare Mahdiyone to hear about her Cotswold Life

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Alex Caccia was in two minds about setting up Animal Dynamics as a limited company, but a shark attack warning changed all of that. Tanya Gledhill meets a man on a mission to change propulsion, one animal at a time

Read more
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

He quit his job with a few thousand pounds in savings and an empty garage. In less than a year, Nick Grey’s technology company Gtech was flying. Tanya Gledhill meets him

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search