Chris Akrigg runs Manor Farm with his sons, Thomas, John and William. The family’s passion is the breeding of Swaledales (they have around 900 breeding ewes), and they have a herd of around fifty suckler cows. Much of the land on which they farm is nationally recognised for a richness and diversity of plantlife, and they enjoy an abundance of ground-nesting birds including curlews, lapwings and redshanks.
The farm sits at about 1000 feet above sea level in the midst of limestone hills at the north end of Wharfedale. The Akriggs are tenants of Manor Farm, which is owned by the National Trust, and have increased their farming capacity with the purchase of Kidstones, and they also rent Bishopdale Head Farm.
The land of the three farms is connected, giving just over 2000 acres, with some moorland in addition. The Akriggs are not atypical in this: many farms are growing through the amalgamation of two or three farms, all managed by the same family. It may be necessary, in terms of making ends meet, but this kind of growth, and the reduction in the numbers of small farms, and with them, farmers, is not necessarily a good thing, says Chris. ‘Before, it was like five families living off these farms. That makes a community. It’s a great shame that the number of people has been cut down. And it’s such a difficult job managing when you get bigger: the maintenance of the walls and that sort of thing. It’s just a fact, though, that you have to make a living. But there’s got to be a limit, ’cos you can only manage so much livestock at the end of the day.’