Allen Kirkbride is the third generation of his family to farm dairy cows at Townhead. At one point, milk from Townhead was delivered to house doorsteps and small shops throughout Wensleydale and Swaledale, but recently the family have stopped retailing. Instead, milk from the farm now goes to the Creamery at Hawes, where it is turned into Wensleydale cheese. Allen milks fifty cows, and has heifers following on.
The farm has three hundred sheep and focuses on breeding lambs for sale (Texels crossed with a Bluefaced Leicester). In the summer, sheep and cows graze the 120 acres around the farm, all of which is enclosed by dry stone walls. The Kirkbrides also run two holiday cottages, which are busy all year round.
Allen has signed up to a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, which stipulates stocking levels and requires practices that encourage a more diverse environment, including the creation of meadows, care of habitat for wading birds, and tree planting, alongside careful management of animals. Allen says that he feels hefted to this land, and can’t imagine himself anywhere else. ‘You just feel that you are so lucky to be in an area like this. It is hard work but you don’t mind it if you enjoy what you are doing.’
The field patterns around Townhead Farm reflect the old practice of individual families having two or three fields for animals, while also working in local lead mines. Today, there are fewer farms, but the layout of fields and stone walls remains the same. Marie Hartley’s map of the fields and their names features in the book, ‘Yorkshire Village’ which she wrote with Joan Ingilby.