BRAIDLEY HALL, COVERDALE
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Stephen Lambert works alongside his brother and his father at the far end of Coverdale. He loves the place, particularly being up and about in spring when the birds are singing and winter has gone, and enjoys seeing his stock do well. But conditions can be challenging: the farmhouse is a thousand feet above sea level, with grazing land running up to 1800 feet, so the weather can be harsh, and there’s a lot of rain throughout the year. Stephen reckons it is getting wetter, with fewer frosts and cold spells in the winter, and less chance of good dry spells in summer to make hay.
Stephen’s father started farming at Braidley Hall in the 1950s, and since then the family has taken over three more farms and rent further land. They keep 1200 Swaledale ewes for breeding, and have around 200 head of cattle. They have also started a shoot on their land, which may become commercial in future. Planting additional trees, both conifers and hard woods, has added shelter, and they have fenced off some of the more dangerous gullies where lambs would too often get blown with bad spring weather. Only a very small amount of the grazing land is flat enough to fertilise or spray muck onto, and there is little way, Stephen says, to change the quality of the grass.
Stephen has two sons, one at sixth form and the other at university. He’s keen they try other things rather than go straight into farming, if indeed that is what they want to do. Looking to the future, Stephen is uncertain about what may happen in the dale if changes to Stewardship and subsidy schemes do not support practices that underpin hill farming in the Dales landscape – hay meadows may decline, walls may crumble, and farms may become more like ranches.