There are many unique sights on the Romney Marsh, and even something as commonplace as a flock of sheep has a history behind it.
The Romney is a breed of sheep that originated on the Marsh centuries ago; it is one of the oldest known sheep breeds and dates back to at least the 13th Century. The climate and geography of the Marsh is so specific that the Romney sheep also developed very specific traits in order to thrive in this environment, which made them very popular as a hardy choice for providing excellent wool and meat. The breed has been noted for its unique resistance to foot rot – hardly surprisingly considering the damp conditions of the marshes where it originated.
The wool of the Romney is considered one of the best British wools, and is used in the manufacture of cloths, blankets, knitting yarns, and carpets. Unfortunately, this made it a prime target for smugglers when wool smuggling was at its height in the 17th Century. At one point in time, England had a thriving wool export industry, and Romney Marsh in particular made good trade raising sheep for the wool market. The Romney sheep was exported all over the world to places like Australia, Canada, and the United States where the Romney helped found these countries’ growing wool industry; the ubiquity of the Romney sheep gave rise to its moniker as “the best known sheep in the world”.
Thousands of years later, and there are still local farmers growing Romney sheep in the Marsh. Paul and Kristina Boulden are part of a farming legacy going back for at least six generations, and through their farming business, they aim to raise awareness of the benefits of home-grown British wool.