Neil Heseltine grew up at Hilltop Farm and lives here now with his partner Leigh and their daughter. Over the past fifteen years, Neil has been decreasing sheep numbers and increasing cattle. Introducing Galloway cattle in 2003 was out of the ordinary at the time, and is still unusual in the Dales, but it is working well. ‘We’re in a position now where sustainability is achievable, both environmentally and economically. I believe that we’re going back to farming how my grandad and father farmed when they moved here in about 1950.’
The Galloways require very little input, and survive on the hills all year round. Visitors who stay in Hill Top Farm’s bunk house are increasingly interested in the way the farm is run, and like to know they can buy the meat down the road. They’ll also get to see the farm’s sheep: Swaledales, Mules, Blue-faced Leicesters and Black Wensleydales.
‘Over the last twenty years we’ve learnt that what’s thought of as ‘perfect’ or high-yield farming isn’t always compatible with the environment. To have balance is critical. We’ve got barn owls nesting in one of the barns, hares on the top land and each year there are more birdseye primroses, orchids and bluebells. You see the biodiversity, you can see that you’re having a difference, you see that it works.’