Enid & Ben Barnfield, Mendips, Somerset
Bobby our Sheep raises money for Children in Need on a smallholding in Somerset.
My husband Ben and I were looking for an allotment when we were offered the opportunity to buy a 3-acre field on the south side of the Mendips in Somerset. Our initial response was that this was far too big an area for us but seeing the field and its views over the Somerset levels convinced us otherwise.
The first four years were spent painstakingly removing huge areas of brambles, nettles and thistles, planting an orchard, building a shed, a wood store and raised beds and topping what we wanted to keep as grassland with our newly acquired compact tractor.
Some time before we bought the field I had spotted Greyface Dartmoor sheep in a field opposite a friend’s house and couldn’t believe my eyes: these were the most gorgeous looking sheep I had ever seen.
So when we began to feel that we had most of the 3 acres under our control, we considered getting 3 sheep. I got in touch with the owners of one of the largest UK flocks of Greyface Dartmoor sheep and they kindly offered me to come in and help them on Saturday mornings so that I could learn about sheep keeping. Six months into my training, and having survived my first lambing, we were ready to take our 3 shearlings – except 3 turned into 4.
Gradually we got to know each other and the ewes continued teaching us what worked and did not work.
Then came our first solo lambing - and lying awake in the early hours of the morning in our shepherds hut, worrying about the newborn lambs and whether they would survive the night! They all did despite a few challenges on the way and we had become small-scale but hugely passionate Greyface breeders.
The last lamb born in our first year was Bobby.
Quite early on it became obvious that Bobby was a little different – he had a much stronger bond to us, and in particular to Ben, than any of the other lambs. We had promised the lambs to our neighbour and friend Farmer Miles but when it came to it, we couldn’t part with Bobby and decided to keep him as a pet.
I certainly never intended to become a writer of children’s books. I started writing mainly to record some of the sheep’s antics and in particular the behaviour of Bobby who started to act more and more like an extremely well behaved dog: he began to respond to his name and came when called. These days he likes nothing better than an early morning walk with Ben away from the flock.
Once the idea of writing children’s books was born we decided that all profits from the books should go to Children in Need. I knew I needed to find someone to help with the illustrations and to design and build the website. After some initial enquiries a friend recommended Cheddar-born Jonathan Holt, currently a student at Plymouth University. It was great fun working with someone young providing fresh ideas. Jonathan created an amazing look and feel to the books with a unique approach to utilizing what was essentially just a collection of photographs never intended to go into a book.
Aimed at 5-8 year olds, there are currently 3 books in the Bobby our Sheep series telling Bobby’s stories from the day he was born to the day he learnt whether sheep get Christmas presents.
Another 3 books are already in the making but I will have to wait and see if the first three are successful before investing in more print runs.
Bobby also has a facebook page - look for ‘Bobby our Sheep’ and I know he would love people to ‘like’ the page. Fame has not gone to his head – yet!