“A Shepherd’s Watch” by David Kennard

I don’t think many people realise how difficult it is to be an small, independent farmer in Britain today, but reading this book should give them some idea. Being a farmer is more than just a job; it takes over your whole life, with long working hours, few days off and then the living you make is, if you’re lucky, just enough to stay solvent.

Despite this, David’s tale of a year on his North Devon farm is a warm, affectionate memoir allowing us to get to know his family, his sheepdogs and his flock, as well as his development as a competitor in sheepdog trials. We learn about how the work on the farm changes throughout the seasons, from tupping through to lambing, and onto the sale of the lambs at market. My suspicions were confirmed that sheep are generally fairly dim characters, and some of the stories involving the escapades of some of the ewes, lambs and rams are really funny.

For me, though, the sheepdogs steal the show. Each dog has its own strengths and weaknesses in how it works the sheep, as well as having their own personalities. I loved hearing how the dogs use their own instincts and experiences to deal with the various situations they find themselves in, and you come to understand just how important they are to a shepherd and how much time they can save him. But, when you read about the sheepdog trials and the lessons David gives other local farmers in training the dogs, you come to understand the skill required to handle sheepdogs successfully.

Overall, a lovely, heart-warming book and I spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening reading it. I will definitely be looking out for David Kennards next book.

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