Punchard Farm sits at a height of around 1100 feet, set off the single main road in Arkengarthdale. Paul Harker’s family has been here since 1946, and he farms here now with his partner, Ruth, keeping 300 Swaledale ewes and some beef cattle. The farm has 130 acres of inside land and has grazing rights on Arkengarthdale Common, along with twelve other commoners.
Lambing this year has gone well, with a high yield of twins, and Paul was pleased to gain a second prize at Tan Hill – entering a tup that he has shared ownership of with three other farmers.
The farm went into an agri-environment scheme in the 1990s and continues to adapt practices according to environmental guidelines, with roughly 60 acres of unfertilised meadows and reduced numbers of the sheep on the moors. He enjoys seeing curlews, lapwings and other birds, and is pleased that there is an increase in the numbers of black grouse on the moors.
Paul has a good working relationship with environmental bodies who monitor the land around him, and encourage meadow improvement and tree regeneration. For Paul, farming is about the whole picture, with livestock thriving as well as wildlife, but, he thinks, hill farming here cannot continue without some form of financial support.