John and Steph Bland have been at Thwaite Bridge farm for less than ten years, so are relatively new to the area. But before moving from their previous farm in Derbyshire, John visited the Dales often: he is a keen Swaledale breeder and his ewes and tups are regular prize winners. The grazing land around the farmhouse and barns extends for around 400 acres and is a mixture of limestone and peat, which suits Swaledales. It’s a wet area though – a common quality across the Dales – so getting a good crop of hay can be tricky. As well as farming, the Blands run a holiday cottage.
Although the farm also has a small herd of cattle, John’s main driver is his wish to breed pedigree Swaledales. His two sons, George (age 6) and Louis (age 11), are keen to follow in his footsteps and between them they already claim a good collection of rosettes. John hopes that there will be a sustainable future in farming for them, and that farming continues to maintain the Yorkshire Dales landscape; but he is concerned about the financial viability of farming and the uncertainty about what may change once the UK has left the European Union.
Since he started breeding Swaledales as a teenager, John has noticed very little increase in the prices paid for sheep, yet the costs associated with farming are continuing to rise. Nevertheless, he wouldn’t want to do anything else. ‘Most farmers don’t farm to make a fortune: they’re either in it cos they were bred into it, or they’re in it because they love it. Or they’re in it, like we are, for pedigree sheep.’