David Lewis Pogson writes fiction for the 'ACES Terrier', has two books published and has poems and short stories in a variety of media.
Market towns, sleepy villages, rural ways and country characters including a drunken, brawling, dialect-speaking poet help provide the background for 'Herdwick Tales', a collection of 26 short stories set in the fictional district of Herdwick in the north west of England, where the sheep outnumber the residents in winter. Being published originally as individual stories, they combine and interweave to chart the highlights of the main character's, Selwyn's, life and career from 1966 to modern times and beyond, but not necessarily in a straight timeline.
A Stunning Setting
About Herdwick District
The fictional Herdwick district is a large, attractive rural area in the north west of England. Its main, centrally-placed administrative town is Shepdale with an assortment of smaller market towns and many villages scattered around it. It has fells and valleys and lakes. Its western edge wraps itself around Herdwick Bay in the Irish Sea. The main employment is farming, forestry and tourism and in the summer it fills to bursting point with tourists. Politically it has a ‘hung’ Council with the Liberals being the largest party followed by the Tories plus a handful of Labour and Independent Councillors meaning that the membership and chairmanship of Committees and Working Groups is shared between the parties.
About Herdwick Sheep
Extract from the Herdwick Sheep Society website - an organisation set up to protect and promote this special breed of sheep.
"Herdwicks are the native breed of the central and western Lake District and live on the highest of England’s mountains. They are extremely hardy and are managed in the traditional way on the Lake District fells that have been their home for generations.
The word “Herdwyck”, meaning sheep pasture, is recorded in documents going back to the 12th century. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of all Britain’s breeds of hill sheep, grazing the central and western dales of the Lake District with fells running to over 3000 feet.
Herdwick farms have typically less than 100 acres of lower, more productive land and rely on the common grazings of the high Lake District fells. The lambs graze with their mothers on the “heaf” belonging to that farm instilling a life long knowledge of where on the fell they should be grazing. This is crucial as the central Lake District fells are inaccessible and a sheep which strays from Borrowdale to Eskdale will involve a 100 mile round trip by road for the farmer to collect it.
The Herdwick’s hardiness and ability to graze over a wide area of fell is key to the maintenance of the Lake District landscape as we know it."
The author of 'Herdwick Tales' has no connection with the Herdwick Sheep Society but recognises their valuable work and encourages any reader to purchase Herdwick products and help give farmers that manage this World Heritage Site a sustainable future. You can find more information about the Herdwick Sheep Society using the link at the top of this section.
Story 6. Pannus Mihi Passionis (2013)
About The Characters
We first meet Selwyn as the Property Manager for Herdwick District Council, wanting to retire early and seeking an opportunity to do so. Irreverent, funny and informative, 'Herdwick Tales' is a heart-warming story of professionalism, determination and friendship within the relatively-unobserved world of local government property management, revealing the intrigue, plotting, and sheer creativity of rural public life as its characters and personalities clash over local issues. Selwyn and his companions regularly meet for a lunchtime pint of Rampant Ram ale and a mutton roll in the Wandering Tup pub on Sheepfold Lane across the road from Shepdale Town Hall to dissect their latest adventures in the following stories.
26 Inter-Linked Stories
The Final Vote
Weapon of Choice
The Fee Generation Game
Faster than a man can run
Pannus Mihi Passionis
A Man of Property
The Golden Fleece
A Well-known Local Character
Cut to the Quick
Pilot of the Fells
Synergy and Pimples
The Insurance Policy
Right Person, Right Place, Right Time
The Bank Clock
The Key to Democracy
The Race for Independence
The Great Shepdale Bell
For the Good of the Flock
The Fourth Musketeer
Seeking Buried Treasure
F & M
Story 21: The Race For Independence (1976)
The stories range over Selwyn's lifetime, covering incidents that arise at various intervals. They involve birth, marriage and death with all the other in-between components that influence a person's life. Ambition, corruption, sex, mild violence, intrigue, politics, disease, love, foreign travel, work and play all feature. What creates the interest is how the characters confront and try to resolve the problems that arise for themselves and their employers. The stories all link together through the characters for a continuous narrative although each story is separate and unique.
A quirky timeline sees events from the past, present and future told at differing stages in a loop that comes full circle. You will encounter a ghost, a stubborn farmer, a war-time spitfire pilot, Japanese tourists, devious politicians, inept and competent council officials, a young entrepreneur and a young, professional female British-Asian heroine amongst many other characters. And all the time, in the background, the fells are being grazed by the Herdwick sheep which helped create that beautiful Herdwick landscape ... until their very future is threatened as described in the extract below.
Extract from Story 26: 'F & M'
The fires burned day and night. The smoke hung over the countryside like a grey army blanket, cloaking the weak sun on fine days or blending into the miserable rain on others. At night the sky turned a dirty, streaked pink from the continual glow of piled carcasses being incinerated. Trapped in the void between the land and the smoke, the smell of burning meat hovered over everything as a constant reminder of death.
Country roads were filled with trucks, belching out diesel fumes to add to the smog, delivering the condemned and collecting the despatched, splashing through disinfectant checkpoints as they hauled their grisly cargo from the farms to the burial sites. Everywhere were vets, soldiers, slaughter-men engaged in an efficient, endless killing-exercise. And everywhere there were innocent victims caught up in it. It was a war unlike any other war; eerily-quiet; without the noise of battle. And striding amongst the carcasses was a military figure, sometimes sucking on a cigarette, sometimes making notes on the back of a cigarette packet, sometimes wondering what the hell he’d taken on and all the time applying bloody-minded determination and offering leadership.
© 2020 David Lewis Pogson