Whitefaced Woodland sheep originated in the Pennines on the borders of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. They are thought to be developed from the Blackfaced Linton mountain sheep with input from Cheviot and Merino.
The breed nearly became extinct in the 1970s and while it has made somewhat of a comeback it is still listed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as one of the four Priority (most at risk) sheep breeds in Britain (on the 21-22 list). The sheep are mainly raised for meat as they are one of the biggest of the hill breeds and they cope well in sparse conditions, making them ideal as a conservation grazing sheep.
The Wool & Yarn
While not raised for their wool, Whitefaced Woodland sheep produce a fleece that has many useful qualities. The wool is finer than that from most other hill breeds. It has an average staple length of 15cm with a micron count of 28-38. The wool takes dye wonderfully and felts well, although this does require a little effort. It can be washed in warm water with a little agitation fairly safely.
The yarn itself varies in quality depending on how it is spun, but usually it is a traditional ‘woolly’ wool, with a slight halo and lustre. It works wonderfully for anything that gets a lot of use. It’s great for socks, jumpers and outerwear. People who are more accustomed to the feeling of wool should be comfortable wearing it next to less sensitive skin, although I wouldn’t recommend it for neck wear such as scarves or shawls.
Useful sources for more information about Whitefaced Woodland:
The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson