The sheer raw beauty of the place never ceases to amaze me.
The moorland has so many different facets, ever-changing moods, colours and sounds that even the loudest of city dwellers can be silenced by its beauty. Our walk over the Easter weekend didn’t fail to stir emotions within us, but for a reason we weren’t quite expecting.
I’d noticed that a familiar face had been absent from our last few checks, nothing that concerned us but we learnt why that day. We’d walked to the highest point where a steep-sided clough with the odd silver birch and rowan clung to the bare sides.
John-William instantly started rolling down the grassy bankings nearby and hadn’t spotted the lone sheep laid on a rocky ledge. I knew as soon as I saw the unmistakable fleece of a Herdwick who I was looking at.
So typical of him to find the highest, most inaccessible place to breathe his last. A lofty perch where he could forever look down and survey his kingdom.
I stood looking across at his still body, lost in thought, going back in time to recall his lifetime of antics. Soldier had arrived into the world over ten years ago. He was the second of a pair of twins and his mother had no desire to raise two.
She took her first born and left the other behind without so much as a backward glance. He became a pet lamb, a spoilt one at that. He went wherever he chose, such were his free-ranging tendencies.
It didn’t matter who he got turned out with, or where he got turned out. He just loved exercising his right to roam. No fence stopped him, no garden, greenhouse or veg patch was safe when he was on the rampage.
He was a big brute of a sheep, but I couldn’t help but admire him. He was also the reason behind Paul’s rapid hair loss, his palpitations and alarmingly extensive vocabulary. Countless threats of a one-way ticket to Ralph’s, our local slaughterman, were screamed in his direction, but they were never carried out.
He drove Paul to near insanity, just the mention of his name and his eyes would bulge, his face turn puce and his knuckles would turn white as he gripped something until the wave of anger would pass. I saw him as the king of all he surveyed.
He exuded character, charisma and sheer magnificence. Paul saw him as a big arrogant ****!! A thorn in his side.
But laying on that ledge, he wasn’t any of those things. Like Aslan with his shorn mane on the stone table, death had diminished him. Old age had crept up on Soldier and laying there he looked like any other sheep that had come to the end of its road.
Only the curlews and lapwings overhead head me utter my last and most fondest of farewells to my little Soldier, who was now free to roam the great flock in the sky.