TV chef Mary Berry swapped her wooden spoon for a shepherd’s crook on Sunday as she opened the City’s annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge.
The former Great British Bake Off judge and liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Bakers led her fellow freemen of the City of London and their families in exercising their ancient right to drive animals across the bridge and into the City.
There must have been a case of “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” as there were perfect sunny conditions for the event, which is staged every year by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal.
More than 600 turned out in various states of fancy dress to accompany around 20 sheep across the bridge for a crowd of spectators, most of whom were out for a leisurely Sunday stroll and stumbled across the spectacle.
Despite a skittish start when a few sheep broke away from the pack, the animals were quickly rounded up and made the journey without further incident, finishing up at Monument where the Woolmen were holding their annual Wool Fair.
Berry, who was accompanied by her grandchildren, told waiting media the sheep were “exceedingly well-behaved”, joking that perhaps the animals, which hail from a farm in Bedford, had made the trip across the bridge before.
“I think it’s great. There’s a lot of children here and it’s going to bring a lot of pleasure on a lovely Sunday morning,” the star added.
The freeman’s right to drive sheep across London Bridge was originally granted to allow traders to bring sheep into the City for sale in the 12th century.
Former Woolmen’s master Bill Clark reintroduced the practice five years ago to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal and the Woolmen’s Charitable Trust, which promotes the wool and textile industries and supports research into animal husbandry and the health of ewes and lands.
He said organisers had yet to tally up the final fundraising figure, but estimated that this year’s drive raised around £25,000.
“We always have great interest, but Mary would have added that extra bit so we’re grateful to her for opening the event and to the farmers who provide the sheep every year,” he said.
He added that selecting a winner for the best-dressed awards was going to be a challenge.
“We had lots of people in some fantastic costumes; one person even dressed up as a fox, which I thought was a bit brave.”