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Sheep are the thread that runs through the history of the English countryside. Our fortunes were once founded on sheep, and Counting Sheep tells a story of wool and money and history, of merchants and farmers and shepherds, of English yeomen and how they got their freedom, and above all, of the soil. Sheep have helped define our culture and topography, impacting on everything from accent and idiom, architecture, roads and waterways, to social progression and wealth.
With his eye for the idiosyncratic, Philip meets the native breeds that thrive in this country; he tells stories about each breed, meets their shepherds and owners, learns about their past – and confronts the present realities of sheep farming. Along the way, Philip meets the people of the countryside and their many professions: the mole-catchers, the stick-makers, the tobacco-twisters and clog-wrights. He explores this artisan heritage as he re-discovers the countryside, and finds a lifestyle parallel to modern existence, struggling to remain unchanged – and at its heart, always sheep.
Philip Walling started life as a sheep farmer, then became a barrister for the next thirty years, and has now decided to pay homage to his farming roots. He lives in Northumberland
"Philip Walling has written a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable account of this shared history [...] after reading this book you may look at a sheep, or a roast lamb, or a tweed jacket, with the glimmerings of a new appreciation."
– Angus Clarke, The Times
"Delightful [...] Counting Sheep deserves its place on the bookshelf of any lover of the countryside."
– Horatio Clare, Daily Telegraph