In January 2012, a distinctive new voice and eye joined the cacophonous chorus on Twitter. The account was called HerdyShepherd1, where “Herdy” stood for Herdwicks, a tough, rare breed of sheep raised for millennia in the mountains of England’s Lake District. The pseudonymous shepherd behind the account deployed a smartphone camera and an acerbic, thoughtful voice to give followers a glimpse of the harsh beauty and hard work that make up a way of life unchanged for thousands of years.
Fast forward three years, and HerdyShepherd reveals his real identity: 40-year-old James Rebanks, whose family have been farming in Cumbria, the last province on England’s west side before you get to Scotland, for at least six centuries. Rebanks went public because his Twitter account’s popularity—this week, it has almost 63,000 followers—attracted publishers’ attention, and the book that resulted, The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, is a surprise No. 1 best-seller in the United Kingdom.
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