A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen
‘Thoo won’t rein sa lang up the’er, mi lass,’ said one old boy at the auction leaning over a gate whilst charging his pipe. ‘It’s as bleak an’ as godforsaken spot as thoo could wish for.’
It is now more than twenty years since I first arrived at Ravenseat, and the beauty of the place comes fresh to me every time I climb the moor and look back across this broad sweep of Yorkshire countryside, with the ancient stone farmhouse and its outbuildings below me. It is tough terrain, bleak and unforgiving in winter. But it is grand and inspiring, a place where the seasons and unpredictable weather dictate to us every day of our lives, but where the rewards of life far exceed the difficulties. It is the place where my husband Clive and I rear sheep, cattle and, especially, children.
When I first arrived here, I was twenty-one. I’d been working as a contract shepherdess, living in a tiny cottage in Cumbria with my sheepdogs, a handful of over-indulged pet sheep, a delinquent goat and a couple of horses. I’d found my vocation: I had shunned the urban life that my childhood in Huddersfield had prepared me for and followed my dream to work in the great outdoors, with a dog at my feet and a stick in my hand, out on the hills, shepherding sheep.
When I met and fell in love with Clive I realized I wanted something more: a family. We didn’t set out to create a supersize family, but somehow the openness and freedom of this wild, untamed place imprints itself, and filling the farmhouse with the noise and chaos of children seemed the right thing to do. Clive and I work alongside each other on our 2,000-acre farm, caring for our 900 sheep and thirty cattle. Our lifestyle encompasses the whole family: where we go, our children go, travelling for miles in my backpack when they are babies, learning to walk with their hands on the back of a gentle sheepdog, finding pleasure and contentment in the outdoor life that we all lead, whether it is skiing down the snowy fields in the depths of winter when we are snowed in and they cannot go to school, building makeshift dens for themselves in the hay when we crop the meadows in summer, swimming in the dark, peaty tarns, splashing in the icy waterfall behind the farmhouse, inventing games around our docile, long-suffering Shetland pony Little Joe, or riding our horses bareback for miles across the moors.
In my first book I told the story of my early years, how I was seduced by farming life, how I came to Ravenseat to collect a tup (a ram) for the farmer I was working for, and how that was the start of my lifelong love affair with Ravenseat, and the man who farms it, Clive Owen. I wrote about our growing family, and the trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with life on one of the bleakest, most remote hill farms in England.
Our lives are all about routine, but within these seemingly mundane tasks lie many variables: the unpredictability of the animals, the people, and of course the weather. No two days are the same. We relish the contrasts that this life and place bring, from the loneliness and desolation on the moor tops to the conviviality and warmth of evenings in the hayfields. It is said that in Yorkshire you can experience all four seasons within a day, and the same can be said of emotions. Spirits lifted, hopes dashed, from joy through to the depths of despair, life and death all there in their rawest form. This is what I love, revelling in the challenge of battling the storms, tramping the moors and rearing a family in this inhospitable place. The story of Ravenseat, and of the man, woman and eight children who live here, continues.
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|Epub||June 10, 2016|
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