Sheena Pratt has been farming at Dale View in the village of Thornton Rust, overlooking the wide floor of Wensleydale, since 1999. She rents the farm and has a flock of 250 Swaledale ewes. Grazing land for the sheep is spread across several different sites, including Stalling Busk and Countersett, in Raydale, and Howgate. This brings with it the logistical challenge of managing livestock in more than one location, with some fields within walking distance of Dale View, but others as much as 12 miles away.
When Sheena took on Dale View in 1999 she had four children at home, with another child at university. Today, she farms here with one of her sons, James, who has had to do the majority of the hard ‘graft’ since Sheena fell and injured herself a few years ago. Together, they keep on top of things, but Sheena describes it as a daily struggle, and they find it hard to break even. Sheena’s hope is things are easier for James as he grows up – if he stays in farming – and she is concerned that there needs to be more support for young farmers in the future.
Despite the hard work and continual challenges, each year when lambing comes round, there’s excitement, ‘especially if we have bought a fresh tup at the back end – waiting for the new lambs to come, to see if they are good enough.’ Very little seems to shake Sheena’s passion for Swaledale sheep. Each year she shows at Wensleydale, Leyburn and Moorcock shows: this year her favourite ewe won the prestigious award for overall Swaledale Champion, something that Sheena thought she would never see.