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In evocative and lucid prose, James Rebanks takes us through a shepherd's year, offering a unique account of rural life and a fundamental connection with the land that most of us have lost.


Some people's lives are entirely their own creations. James Rebanks' isn't. The first son of a shepherd, who was the first son of a shepherd himself, he and his family have lived and worked in and around the Lake District for generations. Their way of life is ordered by the seasons and the work they demand, and has been for hundreds of years. A Viking would understand the work they do: sending the sheep to the fells in the summer and making the hay; the autumn fairs where the flocks are replenished; the gruelling toil of winter when the sheep must be kept alive, and the light-headedness that comes with spring, as the lambs are born and the sheep get ready to return to the fells.

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  • Paperback


    April 18, 2016

    Penguin Press

    320 pages

    RRP $24.99

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  • The Shepherd's Life
    James Rebanks



    April 2, 2015

    Penguin eBooks

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The fell land we are gathering today doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the National Trust. Other fells belong to other landowners, but we have an ancient legal right to graze a set number of sheep on it. Many of these mountainous areas of land were bought and given to the National Trust by wealthy benefactors like Beatrix Potter, who trusted them to protect the landscape and its unique way of life. The bequests often stressed that the fell flocks had to remain Herdwick sheep.

Of all the writers associated with the Lake District, Beatrix Potter (or Mrs Heelis, as she was known for her farming life here) is the one that I love the most. She had the utmost respect for the shepherds of the Lake District, and would have understood what took place between us in Jean’s kitchen, because she, too, negotiated with shepherds to buy flocks of sheep.

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On Writing Life

The Herdwick Shepherd writes surrounded by the beauty of the Lake District.