‘Hefting’ a sense of place – Part 4

By way of a final aside (and with Royal-themed matters in the pipeline for the MERL Village Fete later this year) I thought it might be nice to cite MERL’s own Royal Patron, HRH The Prince of Wales, who spoke on the subject of hefting to members of the farming community at a reception held in St James’s Palace on 29 January 2002:

“I wanted above all, to take this opportunity to salute you as part of the backbone of our precious countryside. As a consequence of the foot and mouth disaster many may have heard of hefted flocks for the first time and of the difficulty of re-establishing them once they have been removed. But do they realise that so many of you are actually hefted people – a crucial thread in the complex ‘organic’ tapestry that defines the essence of rural Britain? Unstitch that thread and the ancient tapestry will become featureless and abstracted; the countryside will lose that intangible element which comes from the continuity of wisdom and experience between generations. So I pray with all my heart that a way can be found for you and your children to continue caring for our unique landscape, and the special communities which form an intricate part of it.”  (Quoted in: Susan Haywood and Barbara Crossley The Hefted Farmer (Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria: Hayloft Publishing Ltd), 2005, p.5)

HRH Prince of Wales and Roy Brigden

HRH Prince of Wales and Roy Brigden

Please give it some thought and respond to this post to let us know where you feel most ‘hefted’ to and why. Are there objects and artefacts that remind you of places to which you have a connection?

If you are interested in more information on hefting and hill sheep farming, the following volumes are just some of the relevant literature available in the MERL library:

  • Susan Haywood and Barbara Crossley The Hefted Farmer (Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria: Hayloft Publishing Ltd, 2005)
  • Edward Hart The Practice of Hefting (Shropshire: The Farmers Fund, 2004)
  • Various authors Herding a Hill Hirsel: How to do it and how not to do it (Glasgow: Scottish Agricultural Publishing Co. Ltd, 1929

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  1. Juliana Wakefield’s avatar

    I am loving these posts on hefting, and it is making me think about all the many reasons why I feel so incredibly hefted to where I live at the moment (St Albans) and even the particular part of St Albans that I was drawn to move to. The only reason I can imagine us willingly moving from here would be to relocate to rural Wiltshire, where my husband grew up, and to where he might wish to be ‘re-hefted’ at some point in the future!

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    1. ollied’s avatar

      I am very glad you appreciate the idea Julie I think this has resonance in terms of some of the discussions we had the other day about traditional practices. Incidentally, the Museum is not without material with a St Albans connection. For example, the collections include a hawk trap (MERL 57/216), which once belonged to one Frank Pope of Cuckman’s Farm, St Albans. A quick search on our online catalogue reveals that we also house a good number of dairying items that were once used at the Hertfordshire County Council’s College of Agriculture and Horticulture, Oaklands, St Albans. I’m sure more will emerge as the project progresses and the team work to enhance the data held in this resource. If you (or your husband) are keen to try searching for places you will find the database here.

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    2. greta’s avatar

      Speaking earlier of ties to the BBC, the second in the series of BBC2’s ‘Our Food’ programme had a feature on sheep in North Wales, including an explanation of hefting. Worth a watch!

      Reply