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Counting Sheep in Cumbrian Dialect

Written by Stuart Wickes

Counting Sheep in Cumbrian Dialect

Counting sheep here in Cumbria isn’t just something you do to get to sleep. Sheep are not just part of the landscape, they’re part of the local economy. So if you’re a sheep farmer counting sheep is a bit like counting money (although they’ll probably tell you not very much money).

Spring lambs need counting

There’s a definite feeling of Spring in the air here now; snowdrops are giving way to daffodils and little lambs are bounding and bleating, at least in the lower farms. And that makes the job of keeping count all the more important. But it’s not necessarily an easy job. And not just because the little bounders are hard to keep track of as they run around the fields and fells in the glimmering sunshine. No, it’s because you have to count them in Cumbrian dialect of course.

Spring is in the air here now

Did you know there is a Cumbrian dialect?

According to folk history Cumbrian shepherds used to count sheep in local dialects using a system that involved counting sheep in groups of twenty, then transferring little stones between their pockets to keep a tally of the total. Which of course means that to help out you only need to learn to count to twenty in the particular dialect the local shepherd is using, although this is complicated by the fact each valley seems to have had its own dialect and variations.

Counting Sheep in Cumbrian Dialect

Keswick Tourist Board provide a handy guide to counting in one Cumbrian dialect

Learn to count in Cumbrian

Anyway, inspired by the sound of bleating, a desire to connect with our local linguistic heritage and a need to get of the house and tune into the arrival of Spring, we decided to go count some sheep in Cumbrian, using what we think is the Borrowdale dialect. Watch the video and see and hear how we got on. We’ve even subtitled it so you can join in and impress your friends.

Watch the video and have a go

Didn’t we do well?!

Have you ever explored another language or dialect that’s local to you? 
This post is part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.

Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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