AN annual Dales tradition of marking the beginning of spring by trotting 200 ewes from the top of a village to lamb in a field below, has taken place in Askrigg.
The 90 year-old ritual involves a two mile downhill journey, spread over five days, to a safe sheltered field where they can give birth to their lambs.
The journey is made in three stages, to give the ewes enough rest during their relocation.
The move causes such a spectacle that locals and tourists in the village, population 550, flock to the streets to watch the procession.
Farmer’s wife, Heather Hodgson, 45, said her entire family get in on the act, with eldest daughter Chloe, 6, heading the herd by opening up the gates.
Chloe dressed especially for the occasion as Elsa, from the film Frozen.
Mrs Hodgson’s father-in-law, David Hodgson, 69, who runs the farm with Heather’s husband, James, 43, drove the tractor carrying son, Ro, 11, who was throwing ewe nuts to the sheep to encourage them to follow.
Bringing up the rear was farmer James, Heather, their youngest daughter, Jo, 4, and their sheepdog, Max, 8.
Mrs Hodgson said: “The Hodgson family have owned this farm for four generations and this tradition started when the farm began in 1926.
“Our sheep are kept in a field up at the top of the field but it is a bit too exposed for the ewes to lamb, so at this time every year we bring the sheep down to the field at the bottom, where it’s a bit warmer.
“The sheep are heavily pregnant and can’t do the journey in one go, so they have to make two stops in fields on the way down - stopping in each field for a couple of nights a time - so they have enough energy to make it.
“Just like mums, you can often find that the vigorous journey has set some of the sheep off and they’ll have their lambs as soon as they get there.”
The family own around 350 sheep, but the males are left at the top of the hill.
All of the sheep on the journey are expecting twins or single lambs.
Mrs Hodgson said: “Just like us, you find the multiple births come sooner. The twins will come next and then the singles.”
Once the sheep have been delivered farmer James attends to the sheep every two hours through the days and nights to tend to the lambs.”
Once the sheep have given birth they will be taken back up the hill in separate groups.
Mrs Hodgson said: “The ride back uphill is not such a big deal, we’ll get them back up by transporting a few at a time on the back of the trailer.
“They will all be back up there by the end of May.”