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.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Railway Huts and Rusty Tin

What are these railway carriages doing on the moor such along way from any railway line?  Old and rusting, corrugated roof sheets flapping in the wind, sides gaping.

 In the aftermath of the 1963 Beeching Report and the closure of a lot of the railways farmers acquired these strong railway huts to use as hay stores on the moor. Quite how they got them there I don't know!  They were filled with hay bales in summer so in the event of bad weather the hay was on site and did not have to be carted all the way from the farmstead. This was before the days of 4-wheel drive tractors when moving about was much more difficult than today.

Now they lay abandoned, sinking slowly to the ground.  They are of interest to photographers, authors and artists and some come with amazing stories.  See Richard Wall's imagine of our railway hut at which was then painted by Sue Nichol is now owned by friends of ours in Keld.

 But by far the most gripping story involves the two buildings in this photo; one an old railway hut and the other a corrugated metal shed now collapsed.  

In March 1979 two young Dutchmen drove past Pry House Farm blissfully unaware of the blizzard conditions and deep snow ahead of them.  Several miles past the house the car ran into a snow drift and was unable to go neither forward nor back.  They stayed in the car all night but with no food or water and realising the car was in danger of being buried in snow the two lads decided to walk.  They remembered passing a house (Pry House) so started to walk back in that direction.  Two pieces of good luck that day helped them survive.  Firstly despite being inadequately dressed for the severe weather conditions they stumbled across this old hut and took shelter.

The second piece of good luck came in the form of a farmer and his dog.  Clifford Harker farmed at Pry House Farm in those days.  During the winter of '79 Clifford, like all other farmers at the top of the dale, walked every day onto the moor to his hay huts to feed his hungry sheep (Chris reckons he and his dad walked onto the moor for 30 consecutive days that winter).  Whilst sheltering, one of the young men heard a dog bark and realised that if there was a dog out there in the snow then there would be a man out there too.  The blizzard cleared for a moment and Clifford saw them.  Having finished feeding his sheep he guided them the 31/2 miles back to Pry House and safety.

And how do I know so much about this story when it was long before my time at Pry House Farm?

I was lucky to hear this story first hand when Rolph, one of the young Dutchmen whose fate could have been so different had it not been for a dedicated farmer, his dog and the railway carriages on the moor, came to stay bed & breakfast with us in July 2015.

 Jenny Harker was recorded telling the story for the YDNPA Every Barn Tells A Story project.  Watch the video here

Friday 6 September 2019

Muker Show

Muker Show is one of the hightlights of the year in Upper Swaledale.  
The show is steeped in history and tradition.  People come from far and wide to soak up the  atmosphere and experience the community values that sets our dales show apart from many others.

  This year Chris was asked to be President of the show, a post he will hold for two years.
Chris' first duty as President was to lead the procession of judges, stewards and officials onto the show field.  As the band struck up behind us I was proud to walk by his side. 


The produce and handicraft tents are bursting with entries.  There are classes of every description; baking, photography, art, handwriting, flowers, fruit and vegetables.  Children only, men only, ladies only, open classes and local classes. Hay, walking sticks, butter and cheese.  

All areas are fiercely fought over and everyone hopes their entry is the judges favourite.

 Muker is in Upper Swaledale, it is hill farming country and the home of the Swaledale.   
With the autumn sheep sales almost upon us Muker Show is a major shop window for the breed.  A rosette in the sheep ring at Muker is highly prized.

This year has been a special year for our chairman,  Ernest Whitehead.  The 2019 Muker Show is  Ernest's 40th year as chairman.  What an achievement.  At the official luncheon Earl Peel, Patron of the Muker Show, presented Ernest with a painting, cake and well deserved special rosette.  


 Here are some of the activities and exhibits we enjoyed.

 The show site is in the heart of Muker village; sheltered and picturesque with  Kisdon Hill as its backdrop.

Towards the end of the afternoon the fell racers tackle the punishing, almost vertical, incline to the summit of Kisdon Hill (1.4 miles with an ascent of 550ft).

It is a great spectator sport and participants are 
guaranteed encouragement and applause from start to finish.

 Before the show opens Muker Silver Band plays outside the Farmer Arms and its is here, as the show draws to a close, that the band plays once again.  Drinks are purchased, song sheets distributed, friends gather and the community sings.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Made in Yorkshire

'Provenance' seems to be the buzz word these days.  
At Upper Swaledale Holidays we pride ourselves on shopping local. We use local producers and suppliers and aim to put as much 'made in Yorkshire' products as possible on the breakfast table, in the Shepherd's Hut and in Hillcrest Cottage.

 Some of our suppliers include Raydale Preserves, Yockenthwaite Farm cereals and the Wensleydale Creamery

This year we have started to use The Home Farmer milk.  This new and innovative venture by a farming family from Aysgarth in Wensleydale is pure genius.  A converted horse trailer containing a milk vending machine stands in a different village each day.  Glass bottles can be purchased and filled and refilled with gently pasteurised, fresh-from-the-farm milk

On the farmhouse kitchen table at breakfast time our sausages come from Buckles Farm, eggs from Dixons of Hartley and bacon from McFarlands of Middleton-in-Teesdale.
And sometimes, when conditions are right and as if by magic, the mushrooms come from the field next to the house!

Saturday 3 August 2019

The Things that the Every Dales Folk Left Behind!

The things that the everyday folk left behind were squirrelled away by the Wombles.

 I wonder what they would make of the 'things that the every dales folk leave behind'!

This is possibly the most surprising.  An old tractor.  Now just a skeleton of its former self.
Abandoned, unloved but well photographed.

A bottomless old bath, a rusty pan in a bread oven, an open grate in a broken fireplace still with its water boiler, now empty and forlorn.

Where are we?  Crackpot Hall of course where whole families once lived, their children running wild and free. Read about Crackpot Hall in Marie Hartley & Ella Pontefract's book 'Swaledale' and hear about Alice who at four years old is described as having 'the madness of the moors about her'. 

Its amazing what can be found in the nooks and crannies of cow houses and walls.  Odd bits of farming equipment, old bottles that once contained sheep drench, a broken horn.  As the song implies things just get left behind.  Maybe the intention was to return and have a tidy up but still here they remain.  If you happen to find a pair of crocheted men's gloves tucked into a wall somewhere they belong to my husband! 

 Above - A broken drag rake used at haytime.
 Left - the remains of  a dynamo and other workings that produced water driven electricity 
for Hoggarths long before mains electricity came to Swaledale.

So while you are walking and exploring the dales keep your eyes peeled for the unusual and the unexpected.  You never know what you might find. 

Monday 29 July 2019

Showing You the Way ..... Muker to Thwaite Circular

Showing You the Way ...... 
is a series of 3 illustrated walk leaflets for children.  
Pick up a leaflet in the Keld Countryside & Heritage Centre.
Today we explored the Cowus (cow house) trail, a circular walk from Muker to Thwaite and back.

This walk is 2.8 miles with a 600ft ascent. 

The first section is quite an uphill pull but once you get to Kisdon Houses it is level or downhill all the way .........

........ with magnificent views in all directions.
Looking east above and looking west below

 Once out onto the heather moor the path becomes rocky & uneven.  Although part of the Pennine Way, it is no more than a sheep trod and care is required.

Challenging and fun, this walk will bring out the adventurer in you! 

Back in the valley bottom follow the meadow paths, through narrow squeeze stiles to Muker.

But not before a well deserved picnic by the stream.