1) The figurative use of this term may have obscured the fact that it referred to the collecting of pieces of wool caught on hedgerows and whins or simply lying in the fields.
When such collecting was sanctioned it could be a means of earning small amounts of money but collecting without permission was an offence: 1595 Item a pair of hoose ... 2 pounde of gethren’ wull, Grinton
1632 Woole gathering: A paine laid that noe shall goe to gather any woole at any mans Sheepe fould or upon the more ... before seaven of the Clocke in the morneing, Burton Agnes
1688 never received wages but the keeping of a few sheep and the gathering woole of the hedges with some little milk that the calfes left in their sucking, Kilnsey
1734 that none gather Wooll before Sun-rise, for every Default 1s 6d, Lund.