The disappearance of a sheep from Penrith at the weekend left Eden Food and Farming Festival feeling fleeced until a town shopkeeper came to the rescue.
The hand-painted wooden sheep sign promoting the festival moved into its new temporary home at Market Square on Thursday but was nowhere to be seen by Saturday morning.
“We didn’t know if it had headed off to pastures new or perhaps fallen victim to sheep rustling,” said a distraught Richard Utting from Penrith Partnership, who chairs the festival committee. The festival team were poised to bring in celebrity sheepdog handler Katy Cropper, who’s doing a free demonstration during festival week, to lead the search around town when a very welcome call came through from a good shepherd, Alan Reading of J&J Graham’s.
“I was cycling past the car park at Princes Street on the way to my shop on Monday and I saw this funny shape at the back,” Alan said. “I thought to myself, ‘That looks like a sheep.’ So I went over and realised that it was the food festival’s sheep sign.”
In true rancher style, Alan saddled up with the sheep under his arm and put it out to graze in his shop until the grateful festival committee arrived to round it up. The gallant grocer even helped tether it back in its location opposite the shop, where he can keep an eye on it.
“Fortunately, none of our other signs have wandered off,” Richard said. “We’ve a chef and a cow on the railings at St Andrew’s, with kind permission from the church. There’s a bottle of wine and a chunk of cheese in Devonshire Arcade, under the auspices of Paul Forsyth from the Soup Shop, and a farmer hosted by Penrith Building Society – not to mention a big pink cupcake being looked after by Lel’s Food 4 Thought and a huge pot of jam in the Town Hall flower beds, courtesy of Eden District Council.”
It turns out that shepherds are a dab hand with poultry as well, and the final sign, an oversized yellow chicken, is safely roosted on the wall outside J&J Graham’s.
The signs, which represent Eden’s food and farming sectors, were lovingly created by Nicky Jenkins, coordinator for Pride in Penrith Lottery, which is one of the festival sponsors. They’ll soon be supplemented by a display of quirky vegetable planters, being nurtured by Vista Veg, the Crosby Ravensworth cooperative behind Eden’s veg bag scheme.
“We just hope the signs and displays will draw attention to the festival and encourage people to book places on the many free events we have organised throughout the week,” Richard said. “Every year, we do a survey at Penrith on a Plate and we always get a proportion of people from the area who say they hadn’t heard about it and just happened to be in town on the day. Here’s hoping our little wooden friends will help reduce those numbers!”
Places at festival events are limited and can be booked via www.edenfoodfestival.org or 017683 51699.
The festival is funded by Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District (BID), Pride in Penrith Lottery, Newton Rigg College and North Lakes Glass, and is also supported by DiscoverPenrith.co.uk and Vista Veg.