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Woolgathering

PUBLISHED: 19:25 24 June 2016 | UPDATED: 21:41 01 July 2016

Helen Langrish and her Romney sheep

Helen Langrish and her Romney sheep

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Romney Marsh has a centuries-old link with sheep farming, so strong it has spawned its own folklore.

In times past, the number of Romneys on the Marsh has been estimated to be in the region of 160,000. Vast flocks were tended by shepherds, known as lookers, who stayed with the animals by night as well as day, especially during lambing season, and had their own accommodation out on the Marsh.

Known as lookers’ huts, a tiny number of these small, chimneyed, shed-like structures still can be discovered on the Marsh today, although now in a highly dilapidated state.

The lookering system died out with the decline in flock sizes in the middle of the last century and subsequent changes, including increased arable specialisation, has reduced the numbers of farmers in the area who still keep pure-bred Romneys. But those who do maintain them remain firmly loyal.

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