Rough Fell Sheep

The breed developed from the Blackfaced Heath sheep of the central Pennines and was first recognised as a distinct type from the mid 19th century. As well as being bred pure, Rough Fells were often mated with Wensleydale or Teeswater tups to produce a 'Masham' type of crossbred. The genetic make-up of the Rough Fell may have been influenced by the Herdwick and by the Silverdale (a horned breed of the limestone areas round Morecambe Bay, which became extinct by the First World War).

It is one of the biggest mountain sheep in Britain with a full white fleece and distinctive patchy face. The Rough Fell was originally bred to supply wool for the carpet industry of Kendal, as the wool is long in the staple (length of the wool fibres), white and free from kemp; until recently many of the top grade fleeces were exported tp Italy where they were used to make mattresses Woollen products made from Rough Fell are produced at Farfield Mill, Garsdale Road, near Sedbergh.

The hardy constitution enables a ewe to mother and rear her lambs whilst feeding mainly on the poor upland grasses and heathers found on her native moorland. Because of the type of fleece, the breed requires no housing, even in the most inclement weather.

Rough Fell rams are large, majestic-horned animals with black and white marked face and a deep body. They are mostly used by farmers on their native fell farms for pure breeding but many are used for crossing with other breeds, contributing their hardiness and adaptation to upland conditions.

Rough Fell lamb is proving to be popular with caterers because of its larger meat yield. It is available from Orton Farmers' Market and directly from some of the farms in the area. There is a proposal to apply for Protected Designation of Origin status for Kendal Rough Fell lamb.

Over the past few years Rough Fell breeders have increasingly recognised the special feature of their sheep: namely its connection with the distinctive landscape and culture of their area.

The breed can also be seen in Derbyshire and Devon.

A video, "Rough Fell Heritage", celebrates the life, work and landscape of the Rough Fell sheep farming community.

The Rough Fell Sheep Breeders' Association was established in 1926 and is organised into three districts: 'K' = Kendal, 'S' = Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale and 'T'= Tebay, Orton and Ravenstonedale.