Our first criteria for Shropshire Ply is that the fleece should be reasonably local to us, to earn it's name.
Most of the fleeces we buy are from flocks near Oswestry, although we have gone as far as this side of Gloucester for really good wool from a shepherdess with a talent for breeding exceptional fleece.
This year's fleece collection was particularly local, some of it came from a flock barely 3 miles away, and none from further than 20 miles.
Locality means fewer "wool miles", and it also means we have the chance to build closer relationships with the flock managers. Establishing such links is really helpful for getting the best fleece. When the shepherds/desses understand what we are looking for in a fleece they very often make small changes that give us better quality fleece, and gives them a better price for their wool.
The more fleece we buy locally, the more fleece we are offered, and this has shown us how many small flocks of interesting sheep we have around here. We knew about the large flocks of Texels and Suffolks which are bred for meat. We also knew about the flocks of diminutive and slightly wild Welsh Mountain, because they are everywhere. We knew about the Zwartables, Swiss Valais, Balwens, Soays, Llanwenogs, Lleyns and Dutch Spotted. This year we learned we had a flock of Castlemilk Moorit sheep practically on our doorstep. Yes, we had them, and we'll have them again!