Well, okay, that is stretching things a little. It was more wool and feathers than fur, but it is definitely an odd enough tale for the days before Halloween… It was the Saturday that we had met up with author Graeme Cumming and his partner and taken them up to the stone circle. Later, we would be meeting with Steve and his cousin for the celebration of the Hunter’s Moon at Langsett. Meanwhile, lunch seemed like a good idea, so we repaired to the ‘peacock pub‘ for refreshments.
The dozen or so peacocks and their hens were, as always, around the back of the pub. Occasionally one will wander out, but most of the time, if you didn’t know they were there, you would never suspect their presence. Also as always, I wandered around the back of the pub to say hello, vaguely aware that my conversation with the gorgeous creatures had drawn a comment to which my companion reassuringly replied, “She always talks to things…” This may be true. It had started with the llama who had given us directions in the middle of the Yorkshire moors and seems to have become a habit. Probably as I spend most of my days talking to the dog. Be that as it may, the peacocks seemed to respond and came over to say hello….more to the camera than to me; they are used to the admiration.
Grasping the inevitable handful of shed feathers, I rejoined the party and we spend a pleasant hour or so, talking over lunch, before the time came for us to go our separate ways. As we left the inn, we were surprised to find that most of the peacocks and a couple of hens had wandered out to the front of the building and were milling about as if waiting for something…or helping themselves to the leftovers on the picnic tables. This was unusual, and called for the camera to be switched on once more.
We headed out towards the Old Horns Inn where we would be meeting our companions for the evening, unconsciously following the route to the Hunter’s Moon that we had written into Mister Fox. We would be early, but that was okay as we wanted to have another look at a very suspicious mound. Classified as the standard ‘motte and bailey’, we have our doubts and suspicions on that score and anyway, we needed better photographs.
To reach the mound you have to pass through the ancient churchyard where a small flock of sheep do duty as organic lawnmowers. Although they are used to people wandering into their precinct, they stay well clear, keeping that obligatory distance that sees them hop, skip and jump away when you get one step too close for their comfort.
Passing through the second gate, we became aware that we were being watched from a discreet distance and from behind the protection of headstone and tree. The sheep in the north tend to run wild most of the year. They steer clear of people… apart from lining the moorland roads to terrorise unwary drivers…
We greeted them as always, reassuring them that we would do them no harm. And as always, as we approached, they started to move. Except, this time, they didn’t run away and we found ourselves surrounded by very friendly sheep who appeared, doglike, to want to have their ears scratched.
My education in the ovine department being somewhat lacking, I have never before had occasion to stroke a fully grown sheep, nor have I ever met any so determinedly amicable. They continued to be interested while we illicitly scaled a wall to access the mound, then, on our return, pointedly ignored us although we walked within a few paces of them. Genius! But very strange. We didn’t understand it at all, but, other than appreciating the encounter, thought no more about it. Until the following Saturday.
We had been accosted by cows on our way to investigate some very strange rock formations with ancient history attached. We were then going to look at another stone circle, but our way lay across fields full of sheep.
As always, as we approached, the sheep did the hop, skip and jump thing allowing us within just the correct distance before moving. As we progressed down the field, they vacated it, moving into the next field and away. One, too busy eating to have noticed our passing, realised she was alone in the field and shot past us at a speed that would surely have won the Grand National.
Our way across the fields was cleared of sheep in minutes. We were a little disappointed, having been given such a gift the week before. But at least this behaviour was normal. We spent some time with the stones, noticing that the sheep appeared to have followed us into the field…and, although it was not exactly a warm summer’s day… appeared to be stretched flat-out in the grass. What do we know? Sheep are as much a mystery to us as the stones… more, in fact.
The stones are located a couple of fields away from the road that leads to the farm. It was as we left the stones that things began to get weird… All the sheep moved into the field with us. And all of them were looking at us. Not only looking, but three fields full of sheep were now in ‘our’ field…and heading straight for us…
They gathered around us in a wide arc… I had a word with the ring-leader whose eyes never moved from her quarry. I began to walk away and took three steps. I had the sense that I was being followed… I saw a field full of sheep freeze, like children playing ‘statues’ as I turned. I walked three more paces. So did the sheep. Then froze as I turned. I moved again. So did they… I stopped. So did the sheep. And although we were laughing, it was eerie.
The denizens of Derbyshire have already given rise to a tale of man-eating sheep… or was it simply because we had once again been to a stone circle? We drove away, both perplexed and delighted and were still talking about the encounter when I stopped to capture the dying rays of the sun over the hills. As I got out of the car with the camera, a herd of young bullocks raised their heads and began walking towards us….