People in Cumbria have cheered at the awarding of the Lakes District the status of Unesco World Heritage Site, joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim. Few people cheered more than my good friends Spencer and Diane Hannah, founders of Herdy.
Commercial designers, Spencer and Diane observed a decade ago that many of the gift products on sale in the Lake District – which attracts 18 million visitors a year – were heritage based. They saw a gap in the market for well-designed contemporary gifts, and started designing unique gifts, accessories and homeware featuring the iconic smiling face of the local and loveable Herdwick sheep. Spencer and Diane worked the business part-time before it boomed following visits to trade fairs.
Today Herdy has four stores – in Grasmere, Hawes, Keswick and Bowness, a thriving retailer network and ecommerce channel, and an inspired sustainability and local reinvestment programme including brand diversification into UK made mattress manufacturing with herdysleep, with its purpose to create a long term, viable commercial use for Herdwick wool.
Herdy were onboard from the get-go in supporting the Lakes District World Heritage application, becoming the Lead Commercial Collaboration Partner representing core values around newness, progression, forward thinking, community and togetherness – and to be the warm, welcoming and friendly face of the bid. “When the UNESCO judging panel visit,” said Spencer at the time, “we want them to see evidence of a truly inspired, united, local community, with a clear identity and a passion for its landscape. The Lake District continues to provide a rich source of inspiration, whether it’s to climb mountains, write poetry, or start a new business.”
In November 2015 the campaign officially launched its commercial collaboration with Herdy, which saw the introduction of a new logo for the campaign titled “United by Herdy.” 2016 included a selection of events promoting the bid and encouraging people to proudly say “I’ve herd” with limited edition tote bags and ‘back the bid’ pin badges and car stickers. 2017 brought a successful outcome, with World Heritage Site status being awarded.
To reprise just why the Lakes District is so special, The Guardian reported that “with its rolling hills, spectacular mountains and stunning lakes, the site not only finds itself in illustrious company, but also becomes the UK’s first national park to be granted the status. The Lakes also boasts sites of historical importance such as King Arthur’s Round Table, said by English Heritage to be a neolithic earthwork henge believed to be the legendary monarch’s jousting arena. The Unesco committee praised the area’s beauty, farming and the inspiration it had provided to artists and writers [including] some of the country’s most beloved writers including Beatrix Potter, who owned Hill Top farm, and the poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and John Ruskin.”
Herdy like to keep it simple. Its philosophy is “Smile at the world and it will smile back. Herdy smiles at you and you smile back.”