The second instalment of our sneaker collaboration with Goral & Sons puts the focus firmly on our new vegetable-tanned British deer leather. For our first project with Goral last year, we celebrated their home city of Sheffield and a profiled an assorted group of local friends, each with a creative story to tell.
For our new Parkland Sneaker we wanted to put a new spin on things. Deer live rugged outdoor lives and the leather, produced from deerskins leftover from venison, is also incredibly hard-wearing. We were keen to keep things local to the Goral factory, so where could be better to put the sneakers through their paces than the Peak District?
We also needed to find someone to feature in the launch campaign, so we put a call out on social media to see if we could find that perfect person. Even for us it was pretty niche, "Local to the Peak District", "Likes the outdoors", "Fits a size 9 shoe", "Has a link to deer". We didn't have particularly high hopes but then suddenly we received a very promising message... Enter Sebastian Chew.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you lived and worked in the Peak District?
I initially moved to Sheffield to work in theatre and managed a grassroots venue there for years until I decided to go freelance just before the pandemic. I could not have chosen a worse time and lost all my upcoming work. I decided I needed a change of environment, retrained in heritage management, and landed this job after graduating at the start of the year! I was brought up in the countryside and it is incredible to be here sharing this beautiful place with so many people.
Your job in countryside engagement sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more about it?
The charity I work for cares for 30,000 acres of countryside across Dark Peak. It’s a massive area carefully managed by a small team of rangers, visited by thousands of walkers and tourists every week. It is my role to engage with these visitors to champion the conservation work of our team and ensure they make the most of their day. Tangibly, this means ensuring we have up-to-date signage and waymarkers in even the most remote areas of the Peak District, but it also means empowering visitors to take care of the countryside themselves.
So a big part of your role is linked to sustainability, which is a topic close to our hearts at Billy Tannery. What are the main things you aim to get across to visitors to the Peaks?
One of my key aims is to educate visitors on the importance of the Peak District’s peat bogs that blanket the summit of Kinder Scout and other much-loved hills. They play an essential role in fighting climate change, reducing flood risk, improving drinking water quality, and are a unique habitat for a range of wildlife. It is essential we work together to minimise the human impact on these special places by keeping to footpaths, keeping dogs on leads during nesting season and, most importantly, not lighting fires or BBQs anywhere near open moorland. Peat is incredibly flammable and once alight, can spread incredibly quickly, devastating wildlife, and releasing vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
What are your top tips for making the most of a visit to the Peak District?
My number one tip would be to avoid the honeypot sites. You would be amazed how many secluded spots there is just a short walk from the summits of Mam Tor, Kinder Low and Win Hill. Don’t rely on Google Maps but plot your own walks on an OS map, or download their app, and you’ll be surprised how few people you’ll cross and how beautiful some of the lesser-known areas are!
At Billy Tannery, we're learning more and more about the UK's deer population and the relationship deer have with the natural environment. What's your take on this?
Growing up in the countryside, I often saw wild deer grazing from my bedroom window. As well as being impressive animals to stumble across, they play an important role in the countryside’s ecosystem. However, without natural predators, overpopulation can counter their benefits by harming woodland planting projects and preventing brush growth. Unfortunately, land managers must mimic the natural predation the British countryside lacks to keep populations under control. It’s amazing to see companies like Billy Tannery using the by-products of these culls and ensuring nothing is wasted.
Finally we hear you have a tattoo closely linked to one of our favourite animals, the goat. What's the story there?
My family live in a small valley in the Swiss Alps, where there have been some incredibly bold and successful rewilding projects. One of the success stories has been the repopulation of native chamois to the valley – a bizarre-looking goat-antelope with a face like a badger. You often see them grazing high above the tree line and I could watch them for hours. Thanks so much to Polly at Cry Baby Tattoo in Sheffield for bringing Switzerland a little bit closer to me!
Exceptional Leather Sneakers - Made in Sheffield
Our limited edition deer leather and suede Parkland Sneakers are available to pre-order until Sunday 2nd October 2022.
Billy Tannery is a new kind of leather company. Find out more about our leather tannery.