View From The Downs – October 2015
by Roger Linn
I was driving along a narrow road that runs along the foot of the Downs when, having passed through Edburton where the road begins to climb, I turned a corner to find a young woman standing in my path, waving me down with the stick she was carrying. She was trying, with the help of two dogs, to encourage a large flock of sheep to cross the road from one field to another.
The five-bar gates for both fields were wide open and facing each other across the road, however the sheep, although offered a free passage, seemed dubious about the whole enterprise. The dogs were sent into the field and with ridiculous ease they rounded up the flock and pointed them at the gate. The sheep, abandoning their earlier reluctance, poured through the exit, but rather than take the easy option of going through the gate opposite, they turned right and took off up the road, running as though their lives depended on it.
The girl shook her head at this unwelcome sheep initiative, and sent one of the dogs after them. I have no idea how she explained to the dog what she wanted it to do, but it sprinted up the side of the road, rapidly overtaking the sheep and turning them round just before the leaders went over the crest of the hill. They then charged back down the road towards us and without giving it a second thought, ran back into the field they’d just left. Plainly the score was, sheep one – shepherd and dogs nil.
The problem was solved by leaving one of the dogs to guard the uphill side of the road, while the other one organised the sheep. This time, although they wanted to turn right again, the sight of a sheepdog lying in their path wearing a doggy expression that said for all the world, “Go on, try me”, was enough to persuade them that the second field was their best option.
The girl apologised for the delay, but I told her not to worry. I’d have paid money to watch.