- Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 January 2019 18:53
- Written by Graham Brooks
Most of the uplands of Britain have been used for the grazing of sheep at some point in their history. Whilst sheep tend to be hardy animals and are usually left to graze the open fells by themselves. (They do in some cases have a home range on which they will stay without fences or wall. The so called 'hefted' flocks of the Lake District, which were transfered with the farm when in changed either ownership or tennant) There is a need for some form of handling facility in which to pen the sheep for various management activities. As already mentioned sheep tend to very hardy especially the hillbred breeds such as Herdwicks, swaledale and Rough Fell they still appreciate some shelter from really bad weather. Anyone walking the fells will have come across sheep sheltering behind stone walls or the small scrapes they excavate into banks in which they can shelter. Man has provided suitable shelters over the years, these are usually either Bields or Sheepfolds. In other parts of the country they are termed Stells.
BIELDS tend to be dry stone walls usually either 2 or 3 set at an angle to each other and so allowing sheep shelter under different wind directions.
The exact definition of what is a SHEEPFOLD and a sheep pen apeears to vary, for this article I intend to call folds circular stone pen with a single area inside, usually with a single narrow entrance, with or without a wall to guide sheep in and provide further shelter. Sheep pens I describe as square or rectangular enclosures which are usually split up inside into a number of enclosures which are interconnected either by gates or pop holes in the walls so sheep can be seperated into different groups. Circular sheepfolds are difficult to work in with sheep because there is no corners in which they can be caught easily. However circular pens are thought to be an advantage when sheep are sheltering from heavy snow. with no corner for sheep to get stuck in they can keep moving around and so trample the snow down and also prevents them suffocating themselves and each other.
Sheep pens quite often have a small building attached for the shepherds to use as a shelter and these sometimes have the remains of some form of fire place in both for the comfort of the shepherd but also to allow the warming of various medications that were used on sheep to prevent parasites.
Article from 'The modern encyclopedia of Agriculture'
WASHFOLDS are sited next to pools on streams. They were used to wash the sheep to remove dirt from the wool before it was sheared. Unlike modern dipping tubs that are used to apply medication to the fleece to treat parasites. The pens are usually rectangular with an entrance through which the sheep are driven in and a second opening above the pol in the stream so that the sheep can then be driven out into the pool to wash them. Occasionally there is a second pen on the opposite bank to house the sheep after washing or a cobbled area for them to get out of the stream easily.
PIN FOLDS are usually associated with villages. They are small either circular or square pens inwhich straying stock could be placed for colection by the owner and usually a fine was collected at the same time.
I am including in this section FOX BIELDS or traps. Although not constructed to shelter sheep they are of a very similar construction as a sheep fold and they were used to protect sheep from the predation of foxes.