From family farm to stately home: What we want for Christmas

Date:1st December 2016. Picture James Hardisty.
Country Christmas

YP Magazine...........The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, of Ravenseat Farm, Keld, Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Pictured Husband Clive, and four of their nine children Annas, 3, Clem, 18 mths, Sidney, 5, and Amanda holding baby Nancy, 4 1/2 mths.

Date:1st December 2016. Picture James Hardisty. Country Christmas YP Magazine...........The Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, of Ravenseat Farm, Keld, Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Pictured Husband Clive, and four of their nine children Annas, 3, Clem, 18 mths, Sidney, 5, and Amanda holding baby Nancy, 4 1/2 mths.

  • How do country dwellers do Christmas? Sharon Dale discovered them knitting their own, catering for nine children and more than 1,000 sheep – and on call to cows in labour. Main pictures: James Hardisty.
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The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen

Amanda and her husband, Clive, farm at remote Ravenseat in Swaledale. They have 2,000 acres, more than 1,000 sheep and nine “free-range” children. The children are Raven, 15, Reuben 13, Miles, 10, Edith, eight, Violet, six, Sidney, five, Annas, two, Clem, one, and Nancy, four months.

Artist Gillian Tyler and her homemade Christmas decorations.

Artist Gillian Tyler and her homemade Christmas decorations.

“It’s remote up here but you can tell it’s Christmas time because there is a something in the air, a special feeling.

“We decorate the house and there’s holly in the barns, although that’s there to help ward off ringworm. As for presents, I collect them all year round and stockpile for Christmas. I don’t like shopping but it’s easier than when I first came here in 1996. At least now you can have just about anything delivered to your door.

“The children send their lists up the chimney. They never get everything they ask for but they never complain and we try to give them at least one thing they really want. This year Edith and Violet are obsessed with fishing and they want fishing rods. Reuben loves anything mechanical and he saved the day one Christmas when the quad bike’s track rod end fell off and he fixed it.

“We have our own traditions. On Christmas Eve, we wake them at midnight – except it’s not really, we just put the clocks forward and it’s more like 10.30pm. Then we all go to the stables and hope to see the horses kneeling in honour of He who was in a stable born.

“In the morning, the children open their presents and we go out and feed the animals as normal. We have Christmas dinner at teatime after all the farm jobs are done and everything is fed. Our turkey is a monster, usually a 36lber I buy from the turkey auction. No one wants the really big ones so it’s generally cheaper than the rest. After that we settle down in front of the coal fire and relax. We always have a Nativity set but this year we also have our very own crib and baby Nancy to put in it.”

All Amanda wants for Christmas: “Clive will go mad at me saying this but I’d quite like another horse, maybe a Shire or a Clydesdale. I’m only allowed to have two horses and I’ve got five already.”

• The paperback version of Amanda’s best-selling book A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess is out on February 7 published by Pan Macmillan.

Artist, Gillian Tyler

Gillian is a book illustrator, artist and printmaker and lives in a cottage by a stream in Midhopestones on the edge of the Peak District with her husband, Darrell, and their sons, Keelan, 21, Saul, 20, and Isaac, 13.

“I have always loved Christmas. It just opens up so many possibilities to be creative.

“I make everything myself so I have Christmas in mind all year round. It would be impossible if I left it all until December.

“I design and make my own Christmas cards and I do a different illustration each year. My decorations include fairies made from pegs. I paint them with emulsion, decorate them with fabric and put a screw eyelet in so I can hang them from the tree. I also make porcelain hearts and felted robins and I always make gifts for friends. Last year, they all got framed prints.

“It is often cheaper to make things yourself but it’s also pleasurable and much more meaningful. I recycle all the shop-bought cards I get but I always keep the ones that people have handmade.

“Our family has its traditions starting on Christmas Eve when we all put on new pyjamas, have a roast beef sandwich, a glass of mulled wine and read a Christmas story. The boys are grown-up but we still leave a mince pie and glass of wine for Santa and a carrot for the reindeers.

“On Christmas Day, we walk to the village pub and come back for Christmas dinner. There are usually about 17 people round the table and then there’s our dog who always gets a present.”

All Gillian wants for Christmas: “I would like an 1845 Albion printing press although Santa might need a bit of help delivering it.”

• www.gilliantyler.co.uk

The Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright

Peter is head of the Skeldale veterinary practice in Thirsk and one of the stars of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet. He trained under Alf Wight, aka James Herriot, at the same practice.

“I’ve worked on Christmas Day for many years now, which I don’t mind as it gives my colleagues a chance to go and visit their families who live away. I can never relax completely in case the phone rings. All I ask is that, if at all possible, is that I can have my Christmas dinner in peace and fall asleep in front of the TV.

“Last year I had to go out to a farm and ended up doing a caesarean on a cow. The rain was coming down like stair rods and I had to strip to the waist and do the operation outside.

“Then there was a lady who was upset because her spaniel kept licking its paw. I must say I didn’t think it sounded like an emergency but I examined it and an X-ray showed that it had a sewing needle embedded between its paws so I had to remove it.

“I like being busy but when you hear people say heir business is closing for two weeks over Christmas I can’t help but be a little envious.”

All Peter wants for Christmas: “I would ask for good health for everyone I know. Money can’t buy good health and it is so important.”

Stately home owner Simon Cunliffe-Lister

Simon and his wife, Olivia, live at Burton Agnes Hall, near Bridlington. They have five children: Islay, 10, Joss, eight, Otis, six, Inigo, four, and Sholto, nine months.

“Christmas starts in January for us. That’s when we plan how we are going to decorate and when we start making things for the house, which we open to the public from mid-November to December 23.

“Everyone gets involved, from my mother Susan, who is very creative and resourceful, to the children, the staff and the local community.

“My mother’s passion is for gardening so plants and flowers feature heavily. This year we’ve used a lot of hops from the estate and sprayed them gold and our head guide, Pauline Waslin, is a great knitter so we have knitted scenes, such as ‘The Knit Before Christmas’, a Knitivity and the 12 Knits of Christmas.

“We always have a giant tree from the estate in the great hall and we also give each of our children a tree to decorate. From November 1 to 13, it’s all hands on deck as we trim up. It’s hard work but we get our reward in the joy it brings to visitors.

“We close to the public on December 23 and then it is family time. We generally host Christmas as we have plenty of bedrooms so there’s a big gang of us, between 20 and 30 people. There is a Scandinavian flavour to Christmas Eve when we have smoked salmon and chilled vodka. The eldest male in our family clan then reads The Night Before Christmas to the children.

“On Christmas Day, the children open their stockings, then we all go to church and call at the pub before going home to open presents and eat our Christmas dinner. On Boxing Day we might go for a walk on Bridlington south beach.

All Simon wants for Christmas: “I’ve got an old 1960s gramophone that is now broken so I’d like someone to fix it so I can play my old jazz records.”

• Burton Agnes Hall is open for Christmas from November 14 to December 23. www.burtonagneshall.co.uk

Self-sufficiency and rural crafts expert Di Hammill

Di lives on Wild Harvest Farm, near Howden, with her three children, where she and her team run courses in self-sufficiency, traditional skills and rural crafts. www.wildharvest.org

“Each year we go ice skating, drink lots of warming home-made herb teas and fresh greens soups made with anything in the garden, including weeds thrown in with spinach and fresh nutmeg.

“Gift giving for us has always meant handmade, from salt-dough tree decorations to weaving baskets to put our homemade beeswax candles in. We also put in our natural body products, such as foraged flower bath bombs and beeswax and lanolin body butter, along with leather notebooks, tinted lip balms and willow stars.

“As for Christmas decorations, I am ashamed to say it but when I lived up on the moors we used to ‘rustle’ our Christmas tree. As a poor single-parent family we would sneak out with a saw and the kids would be look-outs. Now, it’s no longer rustled. A row of apples with candles in adorn the mantle and there is a yule log on the hearth. I learned the hard way that you must line the holes drilled in the yule log with tin or when the candles burn down they will set fire to the whole log. “On Christmas Eve I always read the Nativity and in the morning we sit quietly in a circle on the floor and each take turns to open a present. It is good to test the children’s patience and show gratitude.”

All Di wants for Christmas: “A course on hand-drill fire-lighting or motorbike lessons.”

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