The Shepherd's Life

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The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District
The Shepherd's Life - Rebanks - cover 2015.jpg
Cover of 2015 UK Hardback
AuthorJames Rebanks
PublisherAllen Lane
Publication date
2 April 2015

The Shepherd's Life: A Tale of the Lake District is an autobiographical book by James Rebanks, a sheep farmer from Matterdale, Cumbria, England, published by Allen Lane in 2015.[1]

Rebanks writes that he was moved and inspired by another book with almost the same title, A Shepherd's Life by W.H. Hudson, who wrote about sheep-farming in Wiltshire in the early years of the 20th century.

Rebanks describes the traditional way of life of shepherds on the Cumbrian fells and vales, and his determination to continue to farm where generations of his forebears had done. After an unsuccessful school education, he studied for A levels in evening classes and graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford University, with a double first in history before returning to farming.

Other editions[edit]

The book appeared in the United States as The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape (Flatiron books, ISBN 978-1250060242).[2] There is also a large print edition, with the same title, by Thorndike Press ISBN 978-1410484550. A German translation Mein Leben als Schäfer was published in 2016 (Bertelsmann: ISBN 978-3570102916

Critical reception[edit]

Rebanks' book was well received and was the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week in April 2015.[3][4]

Theatrical adaptation[edit]

The book was adapted for the stage by Chris Monks and produced at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, in March 2016.[5] The theatrical production included life-sized puppet sheepdogs and sheep, with James being played by Kieran Hill.[6]

James Rebanks' subsequent career[edit]

Rebanks published The Illustrated Herdwick Shepherd in 2015 and (Penguin, ISBN 9781846148903) The Shepherd's View: Modern Photographs from an Ancient Landscape in 2016 (Flatiron: ISBN 978-1250103369).

Rebanks continues to farm Herdwick sheep. He has also run a consultancy based at his farm.[7][8] He was involved in the bid for the Lake District to receive World Heritage status (which was approved by UNESCO in 2017),[9] and as of July 2017 had a following of 97,700 on Twitter as "Herdwick Shepherd".[10]

In 2018 he resigned from a government panel set up by Michael Gove and also took a break from Twitter after the composition of the panel was criticised by environmentalists as being biased towards the farming community.[11]


  1. ^ Carter, Helen (2 May 2015). "James Rebanks: The farmer and best-selling author of The Shepherd's Life on dealing with new-found fame - while delivering lambs". The Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (1 June 2015). "Review: 'The Shepherd's Life,' by James Rebanks, an English Sheep Farmer". New York Times. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  3. ^ "The Shepherd's Life". Book of the Week. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Herdwick Shepherd: The life that has transfixed 45,000 people". Magazine. BBC News. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  5. ^ Gardner, Lyn (29 March 2016). "The Shepherd's Life review – gentle farming wisdom and animal magic". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  6. ^ Longstaffe, Stephen (20 March 2016). "The Shepherd's Life review at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick – 'entertaining and moving'". The Stage. Retrieved 17 April 2016. Includes photograph of puppet sheep
  7. ^ "Rebanks Consulting". Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  8. ^ Kellaway, Kate (3 May 2015). "Shepherd James Rebanks: 'My ambition is to be a really good nobody'". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  9. ^ The hill farmers fighting for their livelihoods
  10. ^ "Herdwick Shepherd". Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Twitter's favourite shepherd quits government review of National Parks after three days due to 'cretinous attacks' from environmentalists". The Telegraph. 2018-06-24. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-10-25.

External links[edit]