A Bleat n’ Blether in the Biosphere Community of Barrhill

The village of Barrhill has hosted the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere team plus local makers and creatives for the Biosphere’s latest ‘Bleat n’ Blether’, an event that celebrates the region’s sheep farming heritage and in particular Scotland’s iconic Blackface breed.

As a UNESCO Biosphere the organisation’s remit includes supporting learning, innovation and sustainable development. Since 2021 the Biosphere has been leading a pilot project exploring new uses for Blackface wool, with twin goals of celebrating rural heritage while adding value to a product that farmers are often forced to dispose of as waste. The project has attracted funding from the Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association and drawn significant media interest as it works towards creating items of outerwear with broad market appeal.

The social side of the Blackface wool pilot operates via a public Facebook group – The Wool Gathering – which now has more than 350 members across the Biosphere and beyond. The group launched its Bleat n’ Blethers in Wool Month last October, and the Barrhill meet-up was the first event of 2023. Each Bleat invites attendees to bring crafts and wool-related items to share; a number of precious family heirlooms were on show at Barrhill, including a baby’s shawl and pram blanket that were crocheted 50 years ago, alongside Sanquhar-pattern gloves, Harris Tweed, a Shetland bonnet, and – appropriately enough – felted Blackface sheep.

Tamara Fulcher, the Biosphere’s Communications & Marketing lead, says, “Our thanks to everyone who joined us at Barrhill Memorial Hall. The Wool Gathering is really showing that rural skills are alive in southwest Scotland, and pride in our connections to the land – we just need to find ways to bring people together more often to be social, share experiences, and collaborate on the challenges that residents and those running businesses usually face in isolation. The Biosphere is committed to supporting a sustainable regional economy and we hope that our Blackface wool pilot will enable people to learn more about a historic industry that is still critical in our region today.” Find out more about the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere at

www.gsabiosphere.org.uk For further information on the Blackface wool project, The Wool Gathering, or any other ongoing initiative, please contact [email protected]

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