I'm pleased to announce that I am now a qualified lookerer having attended the course yesterday. You've never heard of lookering? There is a suggestion that "lookerer" is a Sussex word and I must agree that it sounds like it. I first heard - or rather, read - it about a couple of months back on another blog. Although the meaning seemed pretty obvious given the context in which the word was used, I nevertheless looked it up in my dictionary. This is not the world's most comprehensive (English) dictionary - the New Oxford Dictionary - but it is no pocket-sized volume either. The word wasn't there. I Goggled it and the first results led me to the web site of Brighton & Hove City Council which confirmed what I thought. A lookerer is basically a stock watcher (with "stock" as in livestock) and, in the case of BHCC, a volunteer part-time shepherd. The Council, I discovered, were wanting to recruit more lookerers. It sounded an interesting thing to do, so I applied. One of the requirements is that would-be lookerers attend a one-day course. As I said at the start, I attended the course yesterday.
The city of Brighton & Hove has within its boundaries a number of areas of rare ancient grassland, unimproved pasture which is the habitat of numerous flowers and insects found only on this particular type of land. In order to conserve this centuries-old sheep pasture, the Council has contracted with a sheep farmer for him to provide animals to graze the appropriate areas. These are generally small pockets of land and are scattered around the edges of the city so it would be impractical for the farmer to attempt to visit all his stock with suitable frequency. In view of the locations, the rangers and farmer have agreed that visits should be made to each site twice daily when sheep are grazing there.
So the course covered the theory of how this pasture came about, why it is important to conserve it, common sheep ailments and how to spot them, sheep and the law. Then the afternoon was spent on the sheep farm near Lewes where we learned the intricacies of electric fence netting and how to handle sheep.
I found it all most interesting and the farm is in a delightful situation at the opening of a valley running back into the Downs. Unfortunately, that means that the recent rains have rund off the hills into the yard - which is now covered in mud up to six inches deep, some thick and glutinous, some sloppy and watery. Fortunately I was wearing wellies but those who wore hiking boots came away with wet, dirty feet.
Now I wait to see when my first live lookering is due.
These sheep on Clayton Hill seem happy enough.