For as long as he can remember Lewis Steer always wanted to be a farmer, however, not coming from a farming background this proved a real challenge especially with no family farm to fall back on and rented land in short supply. As a reward for doing well in his GCSE's Lewis was given 3 Greyface Dartmoor ewes by his parents which he kept on their smallholding of 13 acres. Lewis pursued his dream by attaining a degree at The Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester whilst building up his flock of rare breed Dartmoor sheep back home in Devon.
Flora Searson grew up in the heart of Dartmoor in Chagford and developed a flare for media during secondary school which she pursued by attaining a degree in Creative Media Practice at Bath Spa University. Whilst studying, Flora made frequent trips home to Dartmoor where she slowly began to learn the ancient profession of shepherding by helping Lewis with his expanding flocks. Having met in a small café in Chagford aged 16 and then attending different Universities, Lewis and Flora were keen to return home together on the completion of their degrees to create a local, sustainable and high quality farm company, and so The Dartmoor Shepherd came into being.
As their flocks expanded they needed to start renting more land around Dartmoor. Currently owning no land of their own and supporting over 800 sheep is proving a real challenge! Having not come into farming the traditional way they have had to approach it completely differently by diversifying. Instead of selling their lamb to a market they sell direct to the public. They are passionate about local, ethical food and want to connect people with the origin of their food again, by allowing them to buy direct from the shepherd. They began using the unique sheepskin rugs from their rare breed flocks (a bi-product of their hogget) to make into products, which they now sell at shows and events across the country, to various retailers and in August 2020 they opened their first shop which is located in the Dartmoor town of Chagford where their sheep graze. This year has seen the completion of the building works for their Workshop and Woolshed on some of their rented land in Chagford thanks to very supportive landlords. They have now taken on two new team members who stitch their sheepskin products in their on farm workshop in Chagford.
We are the only Shepherds in the world to farm all three of Dartmoor’s native longwool sheep. Now sadly all rare breeds, our sheep were bred for a time when wool was profitable and lambs were given the time they needed to mature and grow naturally.
Unfortunately in our fast paced food industry, lambs are fed concentrated foods to fatten quickly and it generally costs more to shear a sheep than the fleece itself is worth.
The Dartmoor Shepherd is on a mission to revive our beautiful, ancient breeds and we are passionate about farming our flocks in an ethical and sustainable way. Our sheep roam the rugged hills of Dartmoor and our lambs enjoy up to double the lifespan of commercial sheep. Our Dartmoor sheepskins are completely unique: shaggy, thick and heavy; qualities that are never seen in modern breeds. Traditionally used by the Royal Household Cavalry under their saddles, the three Dartmoor breeds were chosen because of their extreme durability and luxurious quality.
Our making begins on the hills of Dartmoor in April, normally at 3am with sideways rain as we lamb our flocks. Our lambs are then kept with their mothers until August when they begin to self wean. Our ewe lambs are kept and brought into our flock and our ram lambs go for hogget (the stage after lamb) the following year. Our sheepskins are then tanned in Britain’s oldest tannery, on Dartmoor before returning to our on farm workshop. Our products are then handcrafted in our workshop in Chagford, Dartmoor where Sara and Bethan stitch our sheepskin products on the land where the sheep graze. This gives our products full traceability and cuts our production distance from miles to yards. We value origin and the environment above all else from the farming in fields right through to our finished products.
My name is Moss and I am the newest member of The Dartmoor Shepherd team! Flora and Lewis got me in July 2018 when I was just 8 weeks old. I have learnt a lot about working with sheep and have even been to sheepdog school. I am told I am very useful with moving the sheep between our blocks of ground.
We keep the 3 traditional breeds of longwool sheep native to Devon; The Greyface Dartmoor, The Whiteface Dartmoor and the Devon and Cornwall Longwool. As far as we are aware we are the only shepherds in the country to farm all 3 of the these rare breed sheep commercially. Our flocks are slower growing than todays modern commercial sheep flocks, this means they graze the ancient Dartmoor pastures for far longer than most sheep, which therefore means we produce superb tasting, succulent lamb, with a real depth of flavour.
Native to the wild and rugged Dartmoor landscape our native sheep have a beautifully shaggy fleece which means the sheepskins they produce are like no others in the world. Furthermore as these breeds have been living on and around Dartmoor for centuries they have adapted to endure the harsh, untamed landscape and weather conditions of the local area which results in our sheepskins being hardwearing and extremely durable.
The Whiteface Dartmoor
The Whiteface Dartmoor is Dartmoor's most ancient breed of sheep that has been part of the Dartmoor Landscape for generations. The Whiteface Dartmoor's meat is commonly known locally as angel meat due to its superb flavour, an attribute passed on to the closely related Greyface Dartmoor. Despite appearing far more slight than its Greyface and Devon and Cornwall Longwool counterparts the Whiteface Dartmoor is a rugged animal built to survive the highest parts of Dartmoor and all the elements that the area can throw at it. The Whiteface Dartmoor's fleece boasts a thick lustre and a far tighter curl than most breeds as a result of needing to repel the driving rain of the high moor. Sadly now a rare breed the Whiteface Dartmoor is seen less and less on the open moor. Our Whiteface Dartmoor's live on the highest parts of the farm living off the steep slopes of the Dartmoor hills and Teign Valley.
The Greyface Dartmoor also known as 'The Improved Dartmoor' originally took the best attributes of the Whiteface Dartmoor and enhanced them through cross breeding with local longwools. The breed was first recognised in 1907 through the founding of the Dartmoor Sheep Breeders association. In their hay day at the height of the woollen industry Greyface Dartmoors dominated the valleys and peripheries of Dartmoor. It was famously said that a farmer could pay his rent each year through selling the wool from a small flock. However, today sadly the Greyface is a rare breed and we are now one of the largest flocks in Devon. Our Greyfaces produce beautifully shaggy sheepskins with a more open curl as they are built to withstand the cold Dartmoor weather. The Greyfaces were our first ever flock, we love their adorable teddy bear features and sociable nature.