Category Archives: Farm

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Wassailing Through History: A Gift to Bring Good Harvests

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Apples growing on a tree in the orchard at Chiltern Open Air Museum. Wassailing encourages good apple harvests.

The Romans brought apples to the UK and they have been growing here ever since. You can see their importance in ancient traditions, like wassailing.

What is wassailing?

Wassailing is an Anglo-Saxon tradition. On January 5th, the Twelfth Night, people would gather to take part. The landowner greeted the guests with the toast waes hael, meaning be well. He then passed around the wassail drink for everyone to have some.

Should you wassail on 5th January or 17th January?

If you want to be really traditional, wassailing should take place on ‘Old Twelvey’, also known as the 17th January. This is because the date of Twelfth Night changed with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. We still use the Gregorian calendar now!

What is the wassail drink made of?

The wassail drink was made of warmed ale, wine or cider. People mixed in spices and honey. Sometimes it even included an egg!

How did people wassail?

The group gathered round the biggest tree in the orchard. They hung a piece of wassail soaked toast in the branches. This was a gift to the tree spirits to make sure there was a good harvest that year.

The group would then move onto the next orchard. The journey was a loud one! They would shout, sing and make as much noise as possible to waken all the tree spirits. The noise was also to scare away any demons. People thought they stopped the apples from growing.

Cider and the Victorians

The tradition of wassailing carried on through to the Victorians. Cider and cider making was an important part of Victorian life. Farm owners often paid their workers with cider instead of money! In fact, farms without cider often found it difficult to attract workers.

Wassailing today

Many groups across Britain have revived the tradition of wassailing. At the museum we will be giving our own gift to the trees in our orchards, using our homegrown apple juice instead of cider!

We’ll see the results of the wassail at our harvest festival in September, when we’ll be doing traditional apple pressing with the fruits of our labours.

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Swing Riots

The Labourers’ Revolt, commonly known as Swing Riots was mainly rooted in the poor living standards and impoverishment of agricultural workers for more than fifty years. A wave of more than 3000 acts of revolt swept across England for over 2 years. The system of farmland imposed by Parliament in the previous century had removed the right for the poorest to feed their animals on what was previously common lands. The common land was then divided between the largest local landowners. Until the early 19th century the main employment of farm labourers in the Autumn and Winter was to thresh corn. The advent of threshing machines driven by horses or by water power, able to perform the jobs of several men in less time further impoverished the already poor labourers. Landowners, seeing the economic advantage for them, quickly set about using threshing machines on their farms, putting workers out of work in their thousands. This all coincided with two years of poor harvests and rising prices and cuts to poor relief.

Threshing Machine at COAM

The threshing machine in action at Chiltern Open Air Museum

The riots finally broke out in the late summer of 1830 as jobs became increasingly scarce, wages were reduced and the future of employment became increasingly bleak. The first destruction of a threshing machine by farm labourers was on 28 August 1830 at Lower Hardres, near Canterbury in Kent. The destruction of machinery became the characteristic feature of this labourers’ movement. In October of the same year, a hundred threshing machines were vandalised and burnt in the eastern part of Kent. The uprising quickly spread westward to Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Middlesex and acts of arson increased.

The riots further spread north into the Midlands, the Home Counties and even up to East Anglia, and eventually reached Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, making it one of the biggest popular uprisings since the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The rioters burnt crops, destroyed threshing machines, slaughtered cattle and stole corn from warehouses.

Threatening letters that were sent to magistrates, large landowners, parish clerics and local Poor Law enforcement officials contained the demands of the rioters to raise wages, stop using machinery and cut tithes. These letters were signed by “Captain Swing” or “Swing”. (The name Swing may be a reference to the flails which the labourers used to thresh corn and which needed to be swung with some force in order to thresh the crop.) If the demands were not met, large groups of labourers would threaten landowners and if their demands were not met they would destroy machinery and other things associated with the landowners. While the attacks occasionally led to authorities responding to the demands, many farm owners reneged on the agreements and unrest spread to neighbouring areas. Local magistrates responded leniently, but the government intervened with harsher punishments.

Not all landowners were unsympathetic. Sir Harry Verney at Claydon was unperturbed, seeing no local threat to his own property, somewhat to his surprise.
“Some of the poor are living very miserably. Able-bodied young men having families receive in some cases 3s 6d a week (17½p). A pittance which ensures thieving and poaching. We should alter the game laws… increase the workhouses… have a legalised labour rate … The new beer shops have added to the number of places of rendezvous for the idle and dissolute.”

However, numerous arrests took place and the trials resulted in 19 hangings, 644 imprisonments and 481 transportations to penal colonies in Australia. Rioters were not only farm workers but also rural artisans, shoemakers, carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths and cobblers. On January 10th 1831 a special Commission in Aylesbury tried 160 men for breaking farm machinery and rioting of whom 32 were sentenced to 7 years Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. The 160 men involved were accused of committing their offences in Waddesdon, Stone, Little Brickhill, Iver, Long Crendon and Upper Winchendon and Chepping Wycombe (the spelling of the village at that time, now High Wycombe). In all, 1,976 men from 34 counties were arrested of whom 800 were acquitted, 644 jailed and 481 transported.

The link below provides examples of Captain Swing letters

Written by COAM Volunteer, Roger Coode

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Horse gin and cherry ladder

Horse gin and cherry ladder – not words that you might expect to be seen together, but just some of the things that we have at Hill Farm Barn which originally stood off Joiners Lane in Chalfont St Peter. The date of the farm itself is uncertain, but the farmhouse contained a cruck truss believed to be 14th century, and occupiers of Hill Farm can be traced from 1696 onwards.

Horse working a horse gin

Horse gin demonstration at Chiltern Open Air Museum.

The barn is believed to be from the mid-19th century. The last farmer to occupy the farm was Henry Wheeler, who sold it to Chale Sever Bell in 1924, from when it was used as a weekend retreat. In 1966 a Building Preservation Order was issued requiring that Hill Farm and its outbuildings should not be demolished. At that time, the farm covered 11 acres. By 1968, nine of these acres had been developed for housing, and the developer appealed successfully against the refusal to demolish. COAM acquired the barn, and it has stood here since May 1986.

A horse gin (short for “engine”) can be seen outside the rear of the barn. A horse could be harnessed to this and as it walked round and round it drove a line shaft which enters the barn to provide power for the machinery. Inside the barn the shaft and its various pulleys came from Tilehouse Farm in Boreham Wood.

Later in its history, the source of power for the machinery in the barn was a static gas engine, a Crossley G111 number 86646, which was made to run on “producer gas”. This was a fuel made on the spot such as coal gas (in a small self-contained plant), wood offcuts or vegetable waste. On YouTube there is an example of Methane gas for domestic cooking purposes being made from kitchen waste and cow dung. Later this engine was replaced by a Lister A engine donated by Rugby Portland Cement (now Cemex).

Cherry picking

Cherry picking ladder in Hill Farm Barn

The cherry picker’s ladder which is 60ft long can be seen hanging inside the barn.

Cherry orchards were the county’s specialty. Today, the overall picture in Buckinghamshire is bleak. The Landscape Plan for Buckinghamshire states: “Changes in agriculture have (also) meant that orchards of cherry, plum and apple which were once common south of Aylesbury were reduced by over 90% between 1938 and 1994 and are continuing to disappear. The County Council’s ‘Survey of Orchards in Southern Buckinghamshire’ revealed a 39% loss in orchards between 1975 and 1995 in one of the areas previously most important for fruit production. The condition of those remaining orchards is generally poor.”

cherry picking ldder

Cherry picking ladder hanging in the farm at COAM

“… Buckinghamshire … thinks highly of its “chuggies”, as the jet-black cherries are called locally, that the first Sunday in August is observed there as “Cherry Pie Sunday”. This marks the completion of the cherry harvest with the gathering of the late Prestwood Blacks, and it is the custom for cherry pie, or other delicious recipes such as cherry turnover or cherry duff, to be served in cottages and farmhouses”.

Seer Green Cherry Pie Fair (near Chalfont St Giles), June 22, still continues, and recently has been part of Seer Green’s Village Day, where there are locally made cherry pies for sale. They are keen to keep the fair going and the parish council has allocated money for cherry trees to be planted in the village.

Cherry pie

Homemade cherry pie

In 1974 a tin box found in the chimney of an old house in Seer Green contained the following recipe for Cherry Pie…
For pastie, use flour saved from the cleanings and lard from the fresh killed pig. Roll out verie thickly so as to contain the cherry juice and give boddie to the turnover…Gather a hatful of black cherries by moonlight. Those high up are better in taste. Let them ripe enough to contain the juice when gentile prest. Put a double layer in the pastie with four atop and seal with fresh drawn water from the well. Cook gentlie in the oven on a fire of faggots. Gather round and when the pastie is cool enough not to scorch the fingers, break off one end and drink the juice. Repeat….and yet again…and then again” – ah life is sweet!

Written by Roger Coode
Museum Volunteer

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Jess the sheepdog at 14 months

sheep dog working sheep


The last time I wrote we had progressed into driving the sheep up and down the field and she was now familiar with her commands. Time to move to a bigger field and some different sheep, this is most important as the dog and sheep will get used to each other and there will not be the testing times where learning can take place.

I have a friend who kindly lets me train on his sheep and this is where we moved on to bigger outruns, working steadily up to about 150 yards and trying to insist on her lying down on command at a distance (one of her weaknesses at any distance) the sheep were less obliging and tendered to spread out rather than flock together due to them not being used to a dog so she had to work hard on pushing from each side alternately.

Jess was now becoming a useful working dog and we expanded her experience by penning the sheep on a regular basis for checking there health so Jess would begin to understand what was expected of her which is ultimately what we are striving for, a working partner.

Oxford Down sheep


We are coming to the end of her basic training and one of the last jobs I teach her is to separate sheep, known as the shed, this is completely opposite to her natural instinct of gathering. We do this by having the sheep between us and waiting for a gap to develop, this is best done with plenty of sheep so they feel safe when separated. Once there is a decent gap I call Jess to me and hopefully she runs through the gap causing the sheep to move further apart and lesson ends. After a few times I ask her to walk towards one lot by my body language, so I turn that way and call her on, later I develop this into just a gesture with my arm and a command and she will push away the selected packet. Pretty much the final lesson is the turn back, a command to turn around and go and fetch another packet of sheep, this is taught whilst we are doing the shed, we have split the sheep in two and walked one lot away, the dog knows that the other lot are still behind her so I turn around and ask her to do the same then ask her to gather up the other packet. I now apply the command “look back” that she will learn to associate with this action. The primary reason for this exercise is to have a dog that will turn off the sheep it has gathered and go and look for more, this is required when gathering on large areas where sheep may be hidden and missed on the first outrun.

Sheep grazing


That’s pretty much it for the basics, now it’s all about fine tuning, months and months of it!

Written by Steve Stone, Volunteer Shepherd at COAM

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Jess the sheepdog at 10 months

Sheepdog Jess working the sheep

Jess is progressing well at 10 months

Well, it’s been a while since I updated you last and there are two reasons for that, firstly with summer coming finally my spare time has decreased considerably, the garden taking most of it, secondly the training of a sheepdog goes through phases, and this one is a bit monotonous! Some are due to the dog maturing and suddenly catching on, and some are dictated by me. An example of this is the second stage of training which we were entering when I last wrote. The first stage is to get the dog running around the sheep and then getting her to stop on the opposite side to me. Once we have worked on that for a few weeks then stage two involves a lot of me walking backwards doing figure of eights around the field as the dog naturally moves from side to side balancing the sheep on the opposite side always keeping the sheep between us. During this stage we start the session by encouraging the dog to run out from my side around the sheep to the other side, only a few yards away initially but this is the beginning of the out run that maybe developed into many hundreds of yards and in some cases half a mile or more up in the dales and mountains.

What we are trying to instill within the dogs brain is the desire to go out and gather the sheep and bring them back to the shepherd so this involves weeks of repetitive work walking up and down the field very gradually increasing the distance she has to run to get behind her sheep. So this is what I have been doing for a large proportion of the time throughout May and June and so there hadn’t been much to tell you really. However during this time the dog is maturing and gaining confidence and I am constantly commanding her one way or the other which she slowly begins to understand and respond to, I can then use less body language and movement and more simple commands. She still makes plenty of mistakes as she reacts to the movement of the sheep rather than my command but as time goes on she makes less and less errors.

Expanding her experience involves changing sheep and field if we can, so when we moved last years lambs into Skippings field with plenty of longer grass it was the ideal time to increase her outrun distance and with the sheep hiding under the trees it makes her use her brain to work things out. Trees are also useful for helping with this as you can set up the situation so that she has to go out around the tree to get to her sheep thus keeping her distance from them. A sheepdog must go out in a sort of pear shape ideally to get to the back otherwise if the dog ran straight at them the sheep would take off into the distance. This was the first time she had run so far and she went beautifully out and round them the first time of asking even ignoring the cows who, much to my relief, seemed equally uninterested in the little dog racing by them. She was however happier to run on the right side rather than the left so plenty of work on that side with lots of encouragement has eventually pretty much cured that and she’s now fine on both sides and we just practice practice practice!

During May I began to introduce whistle commands along with the verbal ones so that she began to associate both with a certain instruction and she now responds well to both. For the last couple of weeks I have been stepping things up by the biggest change to her training yet. Up until now it has all been about the dog gathering sheep, bringing them to me and holding them against me, which means she can always see me for reassurance. During June we began the attempt to do the opposite and introduce what we call driving, that is pushing the sheep away from me and therefore working for the first time without me in sight. We start gradually by stopping her going round and asking her to walk at the sheep whilst at the side of me, I will walk alongside her for encouragement until after a few days I can walk directly behind her so she cannot see me but I am still talking to her all the time to reassure her. Over a week or so we increase the distance until she can go from one end of the field to the other and then I can ask her to go around them and bring them back. We also get a bonus during this exercise as she cannot gain any clue as to which way I want her to move so she has to rely on my voice or whistle and therefore begins to really take notice and learn them properly. So now after 3 months we have a dog who can go and get the sheep, bring them to me, hold them in a corner and take them away in whatever direction I desire, well more or less anyway.  Although there are a few more things I need to teach her we now enter another period of regular exercises involving all the things she has learnt so far to really make sure she fully understands what I expect.

Written by Steve Stone volunteer shepherd

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Shepherd Vans and Lambing

Nowadays, people might mainly think of shepherd’s vans as romantic holiday hideaways or useful garden offices but, during the nineteenth century, they were an important part of farming life and were regularly seen dotted around the countryside.

It’s tempting to think that they were rarely used before about 1800 but this may just be because very few old ones survive. In fact, a farming book dating from 1596 refers to them: ‘in some places the Shepheard has his Cabbin going upon a wheel for to move here and there at his pleasure’ and, even older, an illuminated manuscript from 1480 clearly shows an image of a wheeled hut.

Shepherd's living van

The Shepherd van at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Obviously, shepherd’s vans could not be used on mountainous or swampy land but they were ideal for use on lowland farms and were common throughout the east of Wales and the south of England. They were also widely used in other countries in different forms, sometimes being so small as to be little more than a hutch in which a shepherd could lie down out of the rain!

In the early days in England, there was no standard design for the vans and a farmer might ask the local blacksmith to build something. This might have been extremely rudimentary, with no lining or insulation and hardly enough space to stand up properly – just somewhere to keep tools. However, medium scale farmers could afford something better and, often, vans were bought from suppliers such as Farris Brothers or Tasker Ltd, who followed a standard design. Increasingly, after 1829, vans were made from corrugated iron but wooden ones were also still popular. They had substantial wheels with a front steering axle. This raised the van above ground level and, together with a timber lining meant it was much warmer and more comfortable than earlier, more basic versions.

Inside, the furnishings were simple but usually included a cast-iron stove which allowed the shepherd to dry his clothes and heat food. It also meant that he had hot water for washing – very welcome after he had completed some of the dirty tasks that his job required, such as scraping larvae and maggots out of scabs and infections, picking out sheep’s hooves or clipping manure-covered wool from sheep’s behinds. The van also included a simple raised bed, made of just a wooden platform and a straw-filled mattress. Under the bed, a small gated pen was often included, in which the shepherd could keep any sickly lambs that he was nursing.

At Chiltern Open Air Museum, we have a traditional shepherd’s van, dating from around 1915 and thought to have been originally used at Boot Farm, Little Kingshill. It was donated to us in 1985 and, since its restoration, has been used for its original purpose, allowing our own shepherds to remain on-site during lambing. The van is typical of the design of its age, being built of rebated feather edge boards, with diagonal tongued and grooved boards internally, which brace the structure. The wheels are cast-iron and the barrel-shaped roof is covered with corrugated iron. The van is painted in battleship grey, which was its original colour. Internally, the cast-iron stove was too badly damaged to be used but has been replaced with a similar one.

During lambing, one of our shepherds stays overnight in the van, following traditional methods as far as possible. There is no electricity, so lighting is provided by candles and lanterns (supplemented by torches where necessary!) and heating comes from the cast-iron stove which is also used to heat water used for sterilising equipment.

The two priorities of the shepherd are to help the ewes give birth and to care for the newly-born lambs. During the night, the shepherd wakes every two hours to check them. Two hours is the longest that a ewe should be left in labour without help. Ewes can usually deliver without assistance but our Oxford Down sheep tend to need more help than other breeds, partly because of their size. If they are in labour too long, the shepherd will check for problems such as poor presentation of the lamb: lambs need to be in the ‘Superman’ position, with nose and two front feet all facing forwards.

Oxford Down Lamb

An Oxford Down lamb at Chiltern Open Air Museum

New-born lambs are very vulnerable and it is important that they get enough to drink and are warm enough. The shepherds keep a detailed lambing diary which includes information about how often each lamb suckles and for how long. If there seems to be a problem with feeding, the shepherd will pass a tube into its stomach and feed it with lamb-formula milk. If a lamb needs to be kept warm, infra-red lamps are used, rather than the lamb being put in a box of straw by the stove. Concessions to modern ways are important when a lamb’s life is at stake!

Plenty of stamina is needed for shepherding! It involves broken sleep, physical exertion, worry and considerable strength; however, these are more than outweighed by its rewards. At the Museum, the work provides a welcome chance to get close to the old ways and understand how Victorian and Edwardian shepherds might have felt in the fields with only the sheep and their dogs for company. Our shepherds talk of the peaceful, special feeling they experience in the lambing folds. They become aware of the wildlife that comes out when the people leave the Museum, of the sun rising above the cherry trees and the birdsong at dawn.

The shepherd’s van is so much more than just a curious wooden hut on wheels. It is a connection to tradition and to nature and we count ourselves lucky to have one.

Written by
Paula Lacey
Museum Volunteer

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Jess the Sheepdogs Training Continues

It’s been a while since I updated on Jess’s progress and that’s because until a couple of weeks ago there wasn’t any! Our early training had come to an abrupt halt when we sort of hit a brick wall trying to get her to go round the sheep rather than straight at them as she was pretty intent on getting hold of one. This is obviously not acceptable, although many sheepdog pups have a tendency to try and bite the sheep which we term as “gripping” and as a trainer it’s our job to protect the sheep from this by the methods we use, however Jess was proving hard work which I put down to a lack of confidence. I therefore decided to stop things altogether and let her mature a bit more as she had also become a bit disobedient and was not listening to me. We embarked on what turned out to be a 2 month break and concentrated on building a better bond and establishing who was boss!

Jess the sheepdog working the sheep

We took plenty of walks just working on getting her to come back when called and to lie down when told, starting with a long 30 metre leash before letting her run without one. Once I was happy she was obedient enough I reintroduced her to the sheep and to my great relief I noticed a difference, back on her long leash for safety I allowed her to have a bit of slack near them and it was immediately noticeable she was keeping off them and giving them a bit of space. In a larger paddock the following week we tried to get to the first important stage, getting her to the far side of the sheep without scattering them. It took a while manoeuvring wary sheep and excitable dog around until we got there but once we achieved it she was away, walking nicely on to them and keeping herself exactly on the opposite side to me, moving left and right instinctively to balance them. In these early stages this is done without commands as she doesn’t know her left from right yet and we want to bring out this natural herding or balancing instinct.

Jess sunbathing while keeping the sheep in check

Now we are getting somewhere and we can begin to expand her abilities and knowledge week by week a little at a time, so from a point of despairing a couple of months ago I am now very excited and looking forward to the next few months and hopefully many useful years.

Written by Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd at COAM

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First steps on the sheep for Jess

Right from the first month we had Jess, and as soon as she was inoculated she was allowed to see sheep, just so she could develop an interest in them.  First she was shown them, then to follow them, eventually she was allowed to run with them a little. Some dogs are not that interested, some transfixed by the sheep and some are just mad keen to get hold of them! Jess was the latter and the most common type and this means I have to be careful at this stage to ensure the sheep are safe. One good thing about an introduction at this age is the pup has not developed enough of her adult teeth to cause a problem so if she does have a nip she just ends up with a mouthful of wool. Sheepdogs have wolf ancestry and herding is a part of the hunt and the part we need to develop but the killing part is also in there and needs to be totally suppressed so careful thinking and planning comes into the training when you have a pup like this.

The best way is to protect the sheep is in a circular pen so that Jess can run round them but not get close. Rachael our trusty shepherdess built us a nice one where we could encourage a few sheep in with a little food and then let Jess have a little run around them. One of the main objectives here is to get the pup to develop a desire to balance the sheep to me, what I mean by that is if the sheep are in the middle of the pen then I would be at 6 o’clock and Jess at 12 o’clock and if I move one way she should move to correct the situation. To do this we encourage her to run around the pen in both directions attempting to stop her when she is in the right place, here the lie down or stand commands will be required and the fruits of my labour at home will hopefully prove worthwhile. In one of the videos you can see this happening as she takes a command nicely and drops down, we are therefore getting somewhere but it’ll be a while before we try anything without the pen as she still has a desire to get at them given the chance.

Training a dog is little steps some forward but plenty back and as I take every lesson I look for little signs that we are progressing in the right direction, one such sign is the tail, in the first session it was held high over her back indicating a mischievous desire but in only the second session she was holding it low which indicates a more serious working attitude and that’s a real plus. That’s about all for now apart from saying that whilst all this running around is going on I will also be starting to introduce the directional commands that most will be familiar with;

“Come Bye and Away to Me”

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd at COAM

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Jess the sheep dog at 15 weeks

Jess at 15 weeks

Well Jess is continuing to grow at a pace and weighing in at 9.6 kgs, she is pretty much toilet trained and is becoming less of a full time job and more an integral part of the family. Socialising now is the priority as she is a bit limited with the current COVID situation, so, plenty of walks and chances to meet other people and dogs. She seems to love people as long as they are not to “in her face” she then tends to keep her distance for a while until she builds up courage. Dogs however are a bit more scary and she’d run a mile if she wasn’t on a lead so the more chances to meet them the better. Yesterday, she met a tiny puppy about the same age as her and was scared to death at first but a bit of perseverance and she soon overcame any fear and was rough and tumbling and realising what good fun it was.

Sheep dog puppy walking sheep up path

Now over to her main purpose in life, being a sheepdog! Over the last couple of weeks she has been to see the sheep at feeding time and is developing a mild interest so it’s important to keep nurturing it steadily. Today we needed to move the sheep to pastures new as we have recently wormed them and they need fresh grass so it seemed an opportune time to let Jess get a little more involved. All dogs are different and as a trainer I need to recognise what sort of temperament she has and how will she work sheep, some won’t develop a desire to work for many months, others dive straight in and attack ( this is the wolf ancestry hunt and kill instinct that ultimately drives them all to work).

sheep dog puppy observing sheep with head it's head in a bucket

Jess seems to be in the middle somewhere with quite an interest but a bit wary so it’s vital she doesn’t get put off by an angry sheep as this could affect her for life. Many pups don’t do anything at first particularly if the sheep aren’t worried by the dogs’ presence and don’t move away, the pup just ends up confused and unsure what to do. What we need is moving sheep to bring out the chasing instinct and this change of pasture seemed ideal. Starting with the lambs who have been grazing off the Hidden Meadow (our piece of chalk downland) I let them go past her and proceeded to follow them with Jess on an extendable lead, the video was taken by Rachael our shepherdess and you can clearly see Jess getting very excited, nipping at their heels and even showing a desire to want to go round them and head them off. These moments are without doubt my favourite part of training a working collie as you get that flood of relief that your new acquisition has something in her that we can work with.

For now that is about as far as I will go with her, just regular visits to see the sheep to build up a real burning desire to herd them, we’ll wait until she is big enough and fast enough to out run them before we start the serious business of training to commands etc. She will however be getting home schooling on the basics, walking steady, stopping, lying down etc. and of course coming back to me which seems to be our biggest challenge at the moment!

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd at COAM

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Jess the sheep dog at 13 weeks

Well it’s been almost three weeks now and Jess is growing fast, she has gained 1.6 kgs and is noticeably bigger. Dogs are like children but the whole growing and learning thing is accelerated so that a few days can see a dramatic change in behaviour and attitude. She is now allowed out for walks having had her vaccinations so we are learning to walk to heel and getting used to traffic and strange people, she has a bit of a fascination with cars going past so I have to keep a tight hand on the lead and try and distract her as they whiz past. At home we are getting her used to living with a family and knowing her boundaries, plenty of trips to the lawn are paying off as the little accidents lessen off and she is starting to go to the door when the urge is there.

Jess the sheep dog puppy meets the sheep


A few days ago I took her to meet some of the museum staff and to have her first look at sheep. She was well accepted by all so I’m sure she will become a special volunteer in everyone’s hearts. It does somewhat depend on how she turns out as a sheepdog, some of which will be down to my training. Rachael (COAM’s Farm Assistant) and I took her to the sheep for a first look and she wasn’t too keen but they are pretty big. Regular visits will eventually bring out an interest and sometime in the next few months I will let her have a free run to encourage her to herd them we hope.

For now it’s just enjoying her young days being cuddled and played with to hopefully make a friendly happy dog!

Steve Stone
Volunteer Shepherd

Other blog posts by Steve

The circle of life
Jess the sheep dog

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