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Shepherd's delight

A full-time shepherd has started his own internet company, writing walks for visitors to Northumberland. Jon Monks looks after 1,500 blackface sheep on 12,000 acres at Greenleighton near Rothbury.

In summer, Jon uses a quad bike to go on the moor but shepherding in winter is all on foot. He has four border collies to support him. So these walks are written from a shepherd’s perspective, rather than just giving directions and telling people which stile to cross, and there is information on the history of an area and the agricultural methods followed, present and future. The shortest walks are two miles and the longest sixteen. “I have always been a keen walker,” Jon told me, “and I have two young children. So my walks are aimed at every level of walker – I know how to keep the bairns interested.”

I took my children on one of the walks at Hartburn, an interesting woodland trail following the Hartburn for a short distance. They loved it. My next venture is going to be Shaftoe Crags, a beauy spot near Bolam lake, a six-mile hike with a walking time of three hours. It may take me longer because I live near and I know many of the locals on the farms. There are also town walks in Hexham and Rothbury Town, both of which suit children of all ages.

It was during our countryside crisis last year that Jon was inspired to bring out a “foot and mouth walks” booklet. He was supported by DEFRA. Log on to www.shepherds and you can take a look around, with pictures and descriptions of all walks and places to stay.