RARE sheep that originated in the Yorkshire Dales are now ensuring that local people can keep warm with local wool.

Staff at medieval Bolton Castle are weaving wonders with sheep being kept on the grounds as part of on-going re-introduction programme.

The Wensleydale Longwools were re-introduced to the castle last year - and their wool is now being spun and sold to visitors along with a number of specially-designed knitting patterns.

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The breed was developed locally back in the 19th-century by crossing English Leicester and Teeswater sheep and their re-introduction followed that of wild boar which are kept in a fenced enclosure at the castle.

General manager Katie Boggis said the sheep were particularly relevant to the castle for two reasons.

"Not only are they a local breed with the first ones being bred very nearby, in medieval times there would certainly have been similar looking long wool sheep kept at the castle and surrounding areas,” she said.

"The sheep, plus wild boar, are helping to give visitors an idea of what life would have been like at the castle over the past 600 years.”

Wensleydale Longwools have been officially categorised as “At Risk” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in UK. They are one of the largest breeds of sheep, have a fleece with long ringlets of high-quality wool which is also very warm.

“We have now collected a sufficient amount of wool, which has been cleaned and spun into yarn,” said Ms Boggis.

“We are now selling the balls of wool, which come with tried and tested knitting patterns. However, the stock is limited, but we will be replenishing it when the sheep are shorn.”