Melinda Baker’s flock of Black Welsh Mountain sheep are adept at pulling in the prizes. However, the Upton Noble resident started keeping them purely by chance and warns anyone thinking of following suit that they are totally addictive
How did you end up with a flock of black Welsh Mountain sheep?
We inherited some old chickens and were asked by a friend if we had any grass keep for sheep. Eight fat black woolly sheep came to stay. They had their lambs, we bottle fed two orphans, the grass was chewed down, then the sheep were taken away. The fields were empty. I needed more black sheep. My advice is: be careful what you wish for.
Six months later, 24 black Welsh Mountain sheep bounced off a lorry — all unloved, completely wild and some with no teeth. The previous owner had been delighted to see the back of them, but my husband Johnnie and I were now the proud owners of a flock of sheep.
How many do you have now?
Seventeen years later and the Lovel Flock is flourishing. We keep 30 ewes and a couple of rams, and with approximately 40 lambs born in the spring over the summer months the flock is around 75 strong.
Is the Black Welsh Mountain sheep common in the UK?
Obviously they are more prolific in Wales, but there are approximately 300 registered flocks all over the UK.
Why do you like them?
They are not only pretty to look at, but they are good grazers and easy to manage, being only three-quarter sized sheep. They are good mothers to their young and they taste good too.
What other breeds of sheep have you owned in the past?
We have always had blacks, but we did have a white Texel sheep once. She became an instant friend and was called Greedy. She was as large as a house, friendly to everyone and always first to the bucket.
Do all your sheep have names?
The ewes tend to have numbers rather than names now, although I remember our first few lambs were called Araminta and Arabella, then Billy and Betty. The rams do all have names, though. We currently have Pimms, Simba and Stanley. We also called a previous ram Neptune after he fell into the pool.
What prizes have you won with them?
I first started showing the sheep with our children at Frome Show in 2001. We were thrilled to collect a third-placed rosette.
Since then we have enjoyed plenty of successes, the most memorable moment being my first black and white rosette when crowned Breed Champion at the New Forest Show.
What is your advice to others thinking of breeding sheep?
I have helped to set up lots of new flocks and would always advise on three things: good fencing (to keep them in), good hedgerow (to protect them from the sun and wind) and a large feed bucket (they are led by their tummies).
Oh, and Black Welsh Mountain sheep should come with a health warning — they are very addictive.
What are your early memories of Upton Noble?
My husband Johnnie and I arrived in 1996 with two small children and a dog call Puffin. We had moved from a small village near Sparkford and prior to that from London. Johnnie’s family had had a family business for generations in Bristol, so it was no surprise that we settled in the West Country.
Our first village event was the harvest supper, when all eyes were staring at the newcomers.