Sheep and lambs in front of the green and white reading room building
Two lambs relaxing on a rock in the North York Moors
Sheep eatting a hedge in the village

The sheep which roam on the common and through the village are one of the things that many of our guests love when they stay at the Long Barn. When the ewes gather on the road over the common into Appleton, they force everyone to slow down and drive at a slightly steadier pace. A completely natural and organic traffic calming measure.

When we moved into the village, the novelty of wandering sheep emphasised to us that we really had escaped to the country. During the renovations of the Long Barn, Jackie would head off early to work at Hull University. If she was the first out of the village that morning, she got used to slaloming round the sheep asleep in the road. Especially in the summer, the sheep love to sleep on the tarmac overnight, presumably because it acts like a giant storage heater.

We hadn’t been living here for many weeks before there was a knock at the door. Town End Farm still has grazing rights for 60 sheep on the common, and Andrew (a local farmer) wanted to know if he could still graze his sheep on “our” rights. It was the first income for Town End Farm before setting up the Long Barn. The princely sum of £1.50/head was welcome but not quite enough to retire on.

FLock of sheep with tup in harness
Three Sheep in front of stone farm house
Black sheep with two black lambs grazing

We also learnt that sheep can sniff out an open gate from a mile away. If they manage to get into a garden, the one thing they are not bothered about eating is grass. A buffet of interesting tender plants and bushes is far more appealing. Jackie remembers some guests leaving the side gate open after a visit to the Moors Inn. As she left at 6.30am, she spotted that the Long Barn courtyard was full of sheep. Herding them out dressed in her work suit and heels was a challenge. Especially whilst trying not to wake our slumbering guests. Afterwards, we put automatic sprung closers on all our gates.

A friend who used to live at the end of village near the church used to regularly have people knock on her door to let her know that “the sheep had got out”. She got so used to it, she began to just say “Thank you, I’ll let the farmer know” as the explanation about them roaming was just taking too long.

The sheep reinforce the seasons for us. Late November and December are the months when they disappear to be corralled in a field with the rams (or tups) until pregnant. The common feels empty whilst they are gone, and their arrival back usually heralds that Christmas is almost here.

Ewe with young lamb on road
Twin lambs with ewe with blue marking


When we first moved into Appleton, the ewes were left on the common to give birth. Spotting the arrival of the first lamb was akin to hearing the first cuckoo of Spring. Recently, the ewes are taken off the common to lamb and then returned en masse. If we’re honest, we miss excitement of the lambs arriving daily.

During lambing time, you have to develop a sixth sense when driving. If the lamb or lambs are split from their mothers and they hear a car approaching at whatever speed the lamb might suddenly run across the road.

Or the ewe might suddenly head off trying to get to her lamb. It’s best to assume that they will spring out at you at any time. The North York Moors has some useful guidance on line

Ram in pen with curly horns
Sheep sheltering at show under a rainbow umberella
Farmer in yellow shirt showing ram at show

You’ll notice different colours and positions of spray marks on the sheep. Blue, red or yellow and green signify the three different farmers who graze their sheep on the common. The official Mark Book is a directory to every hill farmer’s sheep markings meaning that every sheep can quickly be identified.

Most of the black faced sheep that you see are Yorkshire Swaledales, but you’ll also see other breeds and crosses when out walking. Look out for the black moorland sheep between Lastingham and Hutton Le Hole. Their tiny black lambs are without doubt the cutest.

Finally, if you want to see sheep really up close and personal, then we recommend the various agricultural shows over the summer. The smaller ones like Rosedale and Farndale are our favourites. You’ll meet some real Yorkshire characters and see the pride the farmers have in their animals.