A Portrait of Lakeland

Herdwick, A Portrait of Lakeland documents one notional year in the Lake District National Park

Herdwick (n.) A sheep of a hardy mountain breed from the North of England.

A genuinely honest labour of love, a project which has encompassed years of camera work and dedication to create this beautifully imagined work of art. A breed as noble as the Herdwick deserves no less. Narrated through sweeping landscapes and intimate portraits of mountain shepherds and their doughty Herdwick sheep, ‘the little grey monarch of the fells.’



MaterialHardcover - Silk bindings. Foil-stamped

PresentationCustom slipcase

TextEnglish 21,000 words

Weight5 kilos / 11lbs

Photographs295 Full-plate colour photographs

Size35cm x 29cm x 5.5cm

PaperHeavy-weight silk art

Origin of ProductionVicenza, Italy

‘‘My photographs depict a classic vision of old Lakeland, a last glimpse of a fast disappearing world, the Lake District as it still is in very few places. In a technological age, the life of a Herdwick shepherd can seem anachronistic, but theirs is not a life lived out of time. Rather it’s one deeply attuned to the rhythms underpinning our very existence.’’

Ian Lawson - Books Ancient Rights

Ancient Rights Wasdale

The ‘raking of the fells’ is a seasonal gathering of hill flocks, bringing the mountain wanderers home from their upland solitude to valley farms. It is quite a spectacle in Wasdale, the land of the Herdwick, setting a stunning mountain scene where the world appears as if a painter’s canvas. I remind myself that while painters work from things they’ve seen, I work with what I’m shown and I’m privileged again to witness a cherished part of Lakeland’s heritage.

I have often asked myself what it is about the herdwick breed I admire so much?

Perhaps it is their soul-searching eyes or their friendly white faces. Of one thing I am sure, however: Herdwicks make great subjects for my camera, each one a character with a host of expressions calculated to turn the casual observer into a lifelong fan. They certainly wove their way into my heart and I quickly learnt that, without them, the Lake District we all love, owes everything to the little grey sheep and their shepherds who still ply their ancient trade by tending to their needs and keep.

Holding the stony wastes, their countenance evoke the Lakeland heartlands of Wasdale, Eskdale, Buttermere, Borrowdale and Langdale. The stoic Herdwick always looks right at home, hefted in those high mountains, grey of wool, heads braced against harsh winter winds.

My work, my legacy? The Herdwick gave me all the inspiration I ever needed to tell my story and help create, what I hoped for; the most beautiful and thoughtful book the Lake District has ever seen. I sincerely hope that through this body of work that they will also weave their way into your life as well.

Ian Lawson - Herdwick
Ian Lawson - Down to Earth

Chance Encounter Borrowdale

A December dawn and first light in the valley. In winter it’s lovers of solitude, roving shepherds and the rare photographer like me who ascend to the glory of the fells to be repaid in a pageant of winter colour. Here, a chance encounter with Herdwick sheep, they stiffen momentarily like ten-pins, waiting together beautifully as I take their photograph before moving on silently into the deep valley mists. I have a very strong emotional attachment to this picture, it was the start of my Herdwick journey.

A career highlight worth celebrating with a heartfelt foreword from Clarence House.

I was humbled by the contribution made by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, to Herdwick. His thorough understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by Herdwick fell farming is evidenced in his foreword. To have my work so warmly recognised by a gentleman who clearly has a piece of Lakeland in his heart is a great honour. The following year we shared a memorable private viewing of my major solo exhibition at Rheged, Cumbria.

(Excerpts from foreword, Herdwick - A Portrait of Lakeland)

‘Through the stunning photographs, the interconnectedness of the Herdwick sheep with those who manage and care for them and with the Fells of the Lake District is explained more succinctly than a book of a thousand pages. The Herdwick, like those who farm them, are of the hardiest stock. Together, they exist in perhaps the most challenging, yet beautiful, scenery in England and this book is a testament to this very special relationship of man, animal and Nature. Both are ‘hefted’ to that most evocative of landscapes.’

‘I pray that this book will not only bring great enjoyment and pleasure to those who love the Lake District, but will also help change perceptions of what is truly valuable and so create an understanding that the Herdwick carries on its back not just the history of the Fells, but its future too.’

Ian Lawson - Prince Charles HRH Ian Lawson - Gallery Ian Lawson - Foreford
Ian Lawson - Herdwick
Ian Lawson - Emerald Path
Ian Lawson - Buttermere

Beatrix Potter, writer, had been almost totally replaced by Beatrix Heelis, farmer.

When she moved from London to Lakeland it completely changed her life. She fell in love with Herdwicks and devoted the last part of her life to protecting them. I’ve spent five years photographing them with the same objective.

With three successful careers, she was a storyteller, a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a visionary conservationist. More than 4000 acres of land and eight hill-farms in the Lake district have been preserved because of her efforts - AND the money earned by Peter, Jemima and Samuel Whiskers. Her legacy to farming, to the Lake District, and to the Herdwick breed in particular, is immeasurable in every way.

Hidden in the valleys and dale-heads, my photographic work uncovers the preserved magic of her farms at Penny Hill, Eskdale, Yew Tree, Coniston, Troutbeck Park and of course Hill Top, Far Sawrey. Special places where an ancient cycle of farming has continued virtually unchanged for centuries.

Ian Lawson - Beatrix Potter Ian Lawson - Sheep
Ian Lawson - Beatrix Potter Hill Top Farm
Price Promise

First, making my photographs and secondly, creating all that goes into my opus books – design, artwork, writing, editorial, proofing, printing and the binding are all very expensive, both emotionally and financially.

I’ve only ever followed my ambition to make the most beautifully created self-published books I could imagine up. Each and every copy made by my Italian printers is a proud achievement and it is only with your kind support that I am able to continue my quest.

So, such is the love and care embodied in my work, Herdwick will never be found discounted at any time. Your investment will never be de-valued.