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Clive Owen came to Ravenseat in 1989. Clive’s parents were not farmers, but as a youth he loved farming with friends, and set his mind on it. He moved from a farm in Stainmore, which he ran alone, and was attracted to Ravenseat because it is in the heart of Swaledale breeding country – high on the moors of Swaledale, and with a history of tenants who have been among the most highly respected breeders in the country.
Amanda joined Clive in 1996. Born and raised in Huddersfield, she had been seduced as a girl by books about farming, and knew she wanted to do this. She worked as a contract shepherd for several years and met Clive when she visited to borrow a tup. The rest is history, and the Owens now have nine children.
Together they focus on breeding the best Swaledales they can from their flock of 700 yows. The farm has around 2000 acres of grazing land, with rights to graze on Birkdale Common. It’s high, with the farmhouse more than 1300 feet above sea level and the moors climbing behind it, and is frequently windswept. The moorland has an abundance of upland birds, including curlew, lapwings, snipe, black grouse and oystercatchers, and the meadows, most of which are unfertilised, are full of flowers each summer.
Ravenseat is on the Coast-to-Coast route and in the summer the family offers cream teas to walkers. Thousands pass through the dale, but out of season, Swaledale becomes quiet, and the Owens are worried that the dale’s communities are dying as farms become bigger and bigger, and fewer people live here permanently.
Amanda is well known for her books and has a huge following, and both Clive and Amanda enjoy the chance to talk to walkers about real-life farming in Swaledale. Her aim, though, is not to have a particular message, or to share only a romantic view of farming. ‘At lambing time you’ll have a picture of a skippy lamb that looks great, and then you’ll have a picture of one being skinned.’ She will share both on Twitter, and continues to tell the story of day-to-day life on a farm. ‘Work away, answer questions, and be what you say you are. That’s all you can do.’