Brightly coloured sheep takeover Cartmel
PUBLISHED: 10:30 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:57 19 April 2016
People have been flocking to Cartmel, a village overrun with a host of colourful, woolly characters as Amanda Griffiths discovers <br/>Photography by John Cocks
It’s not often Cartmel makes the Six O’Clock News, but a nasty outbreak of sheep-napping put this sleepy village in the spotlight.
Locals promoting it as a place to visit launched the Sheepy Village Trail. In the height of summer, visitors have been flocking to Cartmel to see the 30 plus glass fibre model sheep that have been on display around the village.
The remarkable ruminants have been peeping out of shop windows, appearing on porches and grazing in private gardens.
So far, the whacky stunt has raised nearly £11,000 for charity as well as bringing more visitors into the picturesque village, famous for its sticky toffee pudding and race days.
Turning Cartmel into a ‘sheepy village’ was the bright idea of Richard English, licensee of The Cavendish Arms, one of the four village pubs.
‘The first sheep painted was called Eugine. He was stolen and we got some local press coverage and it was picked up by the television news,’ he says.
‘Then I got a ransom note for the sheep. I sussed out who it was in the village and went to the lady concerned who was really embarrassed. It turned out that she’d only written the note as a joke - she hadn’t stolen the sheep.
‘One morning, Eugine turned up in a lay-by outside the village. Everyone thinks it was a big publicity event, but it wasn’t,’ laughs Richard, who adapted the idea after finding a trail of glass fibre pigs while on a family holiday in Bath.
‘I’m overwhelmed by the support of the villagers. I ran the idea past a few people and then a couple started visiting us and staying here regularly. I was talking to him one evening and it turned out he was one of the artists commissioned to do the lamb bananas in Liverpool.
Although this would be on a much smaller scale he encouraged me to go ahead. He did a sketch for me and wrote on it ‘this will work, keep going.’ So we did.
‘I found three or four like-minded people who could drive it forward
and help sell the idea to the rest of the village. We each bought a sheep, painted it and put it out in the village and just waited to see what would happen. A few people started coming to us asking what it was all about.
‘The whole idea was to help the businesses create some additional interest in the village and set it apart from other Lakeland villages. In these tough economic times we wanted something unique to introduce new visitors to Cartmel and interest them while they were here.
‘More importantly it was something that businesses could embrace if they wanted increase visitor spending in their shops. A couple of businesses have done just that, Steve at Chamberlaine’s has been selling a whole host of sheepy products and another shop has put together packets of sweets with the phrase Bleatings from Cartmel.’
The trail, which ended in the middle of July, featured 30 sheep sold to businesses or local people for £100 each. Many of these, Richard says, were then donated to village organisations like the school and scouts to decorate and display and some can still be spotted.
‘We had to do a really hard sell on the first ten sheep and then, when
we got to 20, we just couldn’t stop selling,’ he says. ‘We had to call a halt
at 30, but then two people bought sheep privately and we ended up with 32 on the trail.
‘As well as creating interest in the village we felt it important to give the money raised to charity. We chose Bay Search Rescue because we thought it a really good cause. They look after the waters between here and Morecambe Bay and do such a good job.
‘They’ve really embraced the project too. They’ve taken sheep to flower
shows and festivals and through their contacts one called Sir Alf Ramsey
was autographed by the presenters of Countryfile.
‘Another sheep decorated in the colours of Blackpool Football Club and signed by its players had to be re-named ‘Premier Sheep’ when the club was promoted.’
The Sheepy Village Trail ended in a big charity auction at the Grandstand at Cartmel Racecourse, donated for use by Lord and Lady Cavendish.
‘We raised £6,000 on the night,’ says Richard. ‘The star auction prize was a sheep decorated by the school and â signed by my wife’s uncle, Ray Wilson, the 1966 World Cup winner.
‘When it came to organising the auction we thought selling 30 sheep might get a bit tedious, but I was aware that people had already paid £100 for a sheep so asked people to give other auction prizes that weren’t going to cost anything.
‘One lady has offered a basket of ironing, another couple a cream tea for eight on the next sunny Sunday. The Ducati motorbike club who come here each year donated a ride out with them on a tour of the Lakes.
‘Most of the prizes cost nothing; it’s just the villagers going the extra mile. The generosity of the villagers has been overwhelming, I just can’t thank everybody enough for their support.
I’ve already been approached by two businesses saying they’d like to be involved doing it again next year.
‘It’s all about making people smile in hard times. We wanted to have a laugh doing it and I think it has bought extra people into the village.
It’s hard to gauge just how many and how many businesses have been affected but I know from my point of view that people have come in here to buy a trail leaflet or calendar and bought a pint or a sandwich at the same time.’
Where is it?
Cartmel is 2.2 miles from Grange-Over-Sands. Exit the M6 at junction 36 and follow the A591 and taking the A590 towards Barrow before picking up the signs for the village. Alternatively put LA11 6QF into your satnav and you should end up at the racecourse.
Where to park?
There is a large (ish) village car park by the racecourse but little car parking elsewhere in the village. The pay and display car park is very reasonably priced - just £1 for up to four hours, but is unavailable on race days.
What can I do there?
In May, June, July and August there are a number of race days which are a great day out for all the family, as is Cartmel Agricultural Show in August. Visit the beautiful Priory Church; discover the delights of the Sticky Toffee Pudding shop as well as the other beautiful independent shops and businesses here.
Where can I eat and drink?
There are four pubs here as well as a number of tearooms and coffee shops to suit all taste buds. L’enclume is a Michelin starred restaurant in Cavendish Street and Rogan and Company is a new bar and restaurant in the historic market square.
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