Julie Bentham was born on a farm in Dent Village, and now runs Bridge End Farm on the southern side of Dentdale. The farm’s focus is Swaledale sheep – Julie has just over 200 breeding ewes – and a small herd of Limousin/Fresian cross suckler cows. She also has a small number of Mules and Texels. The limestone grazing land incorporates meadows and pastures, but does not extend onto the high moorland.
Julie’s husband runs his own plant hire business, so works full time away from the farm, but is around to help at weekends, evenings and in busy times like lambing and hay making. Julie’s daughter Joanne is also as involved as she can be, when she is not working, and may take on the farm when Julie steps back.
Julie looks back to times when her father-in-law managed without a quad bike, and without large buildings for the cows; and when attitudes to women were less favourable than they are today. Things are a lot easier now, she says, with modern machinery and facilities, but she is concerned for the future of farming in the valley, where farmers are getting older, and there are few who have sons or daughters who want to continue farming.
‘I felt I was in the minority when I started. The women would do a lot of work on the farm back then, I know they did, but it was always the men that went to the auctions, it was the men that ran the farm. But that generation’s dying out and the younger ones are coming up. Things are different now.’