An association that began life with the celebrated farmer and author Beatrix Potter at its helm, is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Potter’s knowledge and passion for sheep was held in such high esteem in the Lakes that she became the first elected female president of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders’ Association.

And at the weekend, the association celebrated its centenary in traditional style, with some of the best of the iconic sheep roaming the Cumbrian fells today competing for the sought-after championship title.

The event at Rosthwaite, in the Borrowdale valley, also boasted memorabilia and displays stretching back over the association’s history, and an exhibition of goods from local artists and craftspeople who use Herdwick wool.

Potter left 15 farms to the National Trust when she died, covering an area of more than 1,620 hectares and, according to her wishes, all continue to graze Herdwick flocks today.

The association is one of the oldest sheep breeders’ groups in the world. Its chairman, Lakes Herdwick sheep breeder Will Rawling, said: “The aim of the association is to maintain the breed and to market Herdwick products.

“This celebration is to bring everyone together who breeds, markets products and sheep buyers.”

The group has worked closely alongside Herdy, a brand which designs gifts, homeware and accessories inspired by Herdwick Sheep.

The company also created the ‘Herdy Fund’, which supports sustainable rural communities and upland fell farming projects, a number of which have supported local producers and boosted the breed’s profile.

This includes the introduction of the Herdwick Brand Marque and the association was also instrumental in securing Product of Designated Origin status for Lakeland Herdwick.

Amanda Carson, secretary of the association, said: “This collaboration has realised real benefits to hill farmers. Our mission is the encouragement of breeding Herdwick sheep and the maintenance of the purity, constitution and character of the breed for survival in the high fells.

“Our members sustain and uphold those traditions, and help make this the most loved of English landscapes, one which is currently being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

“We look forward to future collaborations, which will help farmers find new markets for their products, especially working with young farmers who will ensure the survival of the iconic Lakeland Herdwick sheep.”

Today, there are about 50,000 Herdwick sheep kept commercially on some 120 farms in the Lake District, some owned by the National Trust. However not all are registered by the breed society.

In 1844 West Cumberland Fells Dales Sheep Association was formed to facilitate the sale or hiring of fell tups (rams) by sheep farmers.

In 1899 Canon H. D Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust attempted the formation of a Herdwick Sheep Association. However, it was not until 1916 that the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association was formed.