Sheepwash is a small, sparsely populated parish, covering 827 hectares (2,032 acres). It is bordered by the parishes of Black Torrington, Highhampton, Petrockstowe, Buckland Filleigh and Shebbear and is situated within Torridge District in the heart of the rural countryside of northern Devon, between Dartmoor to the south and the north Devon coast. It lies between Hatherleigh and Holsworthy in the heart of an area known as ‘Ruby Country’. The parish also falls within the Culm Natural Area and the ‘transition zone’ of North Devon’s Biosphere Reserve.
This rural parish, with no major roads running through it, is still largely a farming community and the main land use is agricultural. Sheepwash is an attractive village lying towards the south of the parish in an elevated position on the hills above the River Torridge. The village of Sheepwash is the main habitation, with the only other dwellings being farms and houses scattered across the parish.
The landscape is of gentle rolling hills and valleys. The River Torridge forms the southern boundary of the parish. The river provides an ideal habitat and corridor for wildlife, with many plants, animals and birds present, including kingfishers and otters.
The agricultural land comprises a mix of intensively managed pasture (with grass leys), less intensive, semi-improved grazing pasture and arable crops (winter and spring cereals and maize). Sheep are the main grazing stock, but beef cattle and horses are also present. There are a series of ancient strip fields that have survived on the slopes below and to the south of Sheepwash village and a couple to the north which form an attractive archaeological feature.
The population of the parish is 254, living in 101 households, giving an average household size of 2.5 people. This population is made up of 54% males and 46% females.
Sheepwash is a working parish, with 56% of people self-employed or in full or part-time employment. 30% of these people work within the parish, 5% within 5 miles, 18% within 5 to 10 miles and 40% more than 10 miles away.