Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Walls and walling - Big 'uns and lal' 'uns

The hundreds of miles of dry stone walls that form field boundaries and fell walls 
are a fascinating feature of the Yorkshire Dales.

In places, where the gradient of the landscape dictates, the wall appears to climbs endlessly 
towards the sky.  
The walls are all built in the same way; a double skin with a narrow cavity in the middle where small stone and broken bits are thrown.  Generally three levels of 'through stones' or 'truffs' are placed to bridge both sides of the wall.  The 'throughs' gives the wall its strength.  Finally a tight and tidy row of top stones completes the job. 

Chris recently rebuilt this stretch of wall that leads to a gate. Now tall and straight it will easily stand for another 100 years.
 Like the hundreds of little stone buildings in Swaledale, the walls are all unique.  They have special features such as stiles and thru'les or smoot holes.  Read about these in a previous blog post

Its surprising where an appreciation of the intricacy of these structures can lead.  Last year I enrolled on a workshop led by a farmer & dry stone waller from Teesdale.  Trevor Dixon established Dalestone Crafts in 1992 and has been making minatures for over 30 years.

I have made two minature walls and a plant pot holder.  The walls are constructed in exactly the same way as a proper wall and can include features such as a step stile, gateway, ladder stile or smoot hole 
I wanted to wall into a corner and took my inspiration from this  piece of wall in the corner of Pry House home field that has a stepped stile.

It has been fun making in minature what Chris does for real.  My models are lovely but they will never be a shelter from a storm, a place of safety where a yow might choose to lamb, a home for insects, voles and other small mammals or grow green with lichen and moss.

Chris, his brother and his nephew can all wall, a craft that has been handed down through the generations and is an essential skill to keep our walls in good order.    

Thursday, 9 January 2020

January brings the snow

We have a light covering of snow this  morning giving me the perfect opportunity to pop down and give some extra fodder to Heidi and Hetty, my Herdwick ewes.

They certainly found this sweet hay very tasty.

I give them hay and sugar beet cubes in the cow'us (in Swaledale this is the name for a field barn) as it can get wasted if fed outdoors.
As much as Heidi and Hetty want the feed they are still cautious.  They know me, they recognise my voice but at the end of the day they are wild, not pets, and that is how it should be.

It didn't take long however for them to overcome their nerves and to start tucking in.  Happy Herdys!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all;  to friends & family, to all the lovely people who have stayed with us at Pry House Farm B&B, in the Shepherds Hut and at Hillcrest Cottage.

  A special new year greeting to those of you who read my blog from the far flung corners of the globe.  I have blog followers all over Europe and as far away as America, Russia, Singapore and Australia.  I am always amazed at the level of interest in our way of life up here, high in the hills in the Yorkshire Dales. I don't suppose for one minute we will ever meet face to face but its lovely to know you enjoy reading the blog.

 Christmas came and Christmas went!  The decorations and cards have come down today, the tree is bare and has been put outside and the lights are packed away for another year.  I enjoyed making festive wreaths for both Pry House Farm and Hillcrest Cottage but this cheerful gnome (or is he an elf?) is the most creative use of Christmas tree off cuts I've ever seen.  Makes everyone smile!

 And so we start a new year and a new decade. As farmers we knuckle down and prepare for January and February the two hardest months of the year.  Someone asked me the other day if there would be snow this winter.  'You might not get any', I replied, 'but where I live, we certainly will!'

At this time of year its quiet at the head of the dale.  Few come for bed & breakfast preferring to wait for the better weather and the longer days but Hillcrest remains popular all year round.  What could be nicer than a cosy country cottage, fresh air aplenty, pub on your doorstep, log burner blazing?

And we are dog friendly too.  
For lots more photos have a look at the gallery on my website

Happy New Year - come and see us soon!

Saturday, 7 December 2019


Tupping is a vitally important time in the farming calendar.  Our tups have a lot of work to do, a lot of ewes to successfully cover.

Coloured raddle is applied to the tups every day.  This mark is left on the ewes they have covered  and the colour tells us when they will lamb.  At Pry House Farm we start with yellow raddle.  After 2 weeks we change to green.

 There are a lot of yellow bottoms! We expect to be very busy this lambing time.

Dipping Sheep

Even in December you can get an occasional good day to dip. Today its dampish but mild which is exactly right for dipping the last few sheep.  Too big a contrast in temperature isn't ideal and dipping during frosty weather is not recommended.

At Pry House Farm we dip our sheep once a year.  They are dipped to keep their skin & fleece clean and free from disease.  There are other methods but the alternatives are simply not thorough enough. So once again, its a case of 'The old ways are the best'. The sheep are in the tub for less than a minute.  Its not cruel.  Sheep scab, on the other hand, is.  Its nasty, its contagious and soon makes sheep sore and out of condition.

Once they have had a good soaking the trap door is lifted, the sheep walk up the ramp out of the dipping tub and have a jolly good shake!

A shake of the head and a rattle of the ears and the job is done.
The mark on the back of the head is the ewe's 'heaft mark'. This red mark shows that these sheep are off our High Seat heaft. 

The yellow raddle mark proves they have been covered by the tup.  All sheep with a yellow bottom will lamb within the first fortnight of lambing time (last 2 weeks of April).

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Bye Bye Herdy Lambs

Doris, Jacqui and Marco are on their way to their new home near Aberdeen

They are going to a lovely home in Scotland.  
Its a long journey but they are travelling in style and comfort.

Its was hard saying goodbye to my first little flock but I was lucky to find someone who wanted to keep them together.  Because the tup lamb is not related to the gimmers (female lambs) their new owner can start his own flock. I hope they do well for him.

But it doesn't stop there. The next task it to take Heidi and Hetty back to the herdwick tup so they can have more lambs next year.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Autumn Days in the Dales

Autumn Days

Autumn is a favourite season for lots of people.  The dale takes a breath; misty mornings, occasional frosts, warm colours, quiet roads & footpaths, long shadows and crackling fires.

On the farm it is a race to get everything done before dark.  Each day darkness creeps in sooner and sooner.

All the cows are now in the buildings.  They need bedding up every day and a new silage bale when they have eaten up.  Unlike the olden days when farmers had to tend to the cows in the cowus'es in daylight hours Chris can do these jobs in the evening with modern tractors and electric light.  

What else happens in autumn on the farm?  October is the main month for sales.  First the draft ewes and any surplus gimmers (young female sheep) are sold.  Then towards the end of the month its the Tup Sales.  At the tup sales we sell and buy.  Each year we must bring in new tups to improve and strengthen our flock of pure Swaledales.

Soon it will be time to 'loose' the tups and so marks the very beginning of the breeding cycle.
Our tups work till the last day of the year by which time all the ewes should be in lamb.