Top York sheep breeder Charles Marwood prepares for special celebratory sale

For more than half his life, Charles Marwood has specialised in producing a breed of sheep on the edge of the Howardian Hills that was once the preserve of a picturesque region of France.

Charollais sheep breeder Charles Marwood, of Foulrice Farm, Whenby, York, pictured with his son Stephen, and some of their stock. Picture by James Hardisty.

Charollais sheep were first imported to the UK from the Saone Loire region in 1976 and when Mr Marwood of Whenby acquired his first five ewes and a ram from Norfolk farmer John Barber six years later, he was setting himself up to capitalise on a breed that would go on to become one of the most popular lowland breeds in the country.

Now approaching his 70th birthday, Mr Marwood is celebrating his 36 years as an award-winning Charollais breeder by putting his largest ever consignment of females up for sale at auction this Saturday at Skipton Auction Mart.

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In a neat symmetry with his forthcoming birthday in December, some 70 sheep will be auctioned off.

Award-winning farmer Charles Marwood, of Foulrice Farm, Whenby, York, is celebrating 36 years as a Charollais breeder ahead of his 70th birthday by putting his highest number of females up for sale at a celebratory auction at Skipton Auction Mart on Saturday. Mr Marwood is pictured with his son Stephen, holding a ewe from the show, pen lot 68.

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“Over the 36 years the quality of the sheep which we produce has improved dramatically,” Mr Marwood said.

“Reaching the age of 70 this year and having bred Charollais for this length of time we felt it was an opportune time to sell a top draw of breeding females.

“From indications to date we would hope for a lot of interest on Saturday.”

The farmer’s flock took off in 1986 after a trip to France where he and his wife Valerie visited 30 flocks in five days to buy their first French breeding stock.

Now, their own Foulrice flock based near York comprises of around 500 pedigree Charollais ewes with the Marwoods’ main business consisting of commercial ram sales.

Recognised nationally for their success, the couple have received a ‘Decade of Progress’ award for genetic improvement in the Signet FBC awards, while Mr Marwood is a prolific winner in the show rings.

The Marwoods are considered to be among the top flocks for the number of pedigree commercial Charollais rams they supply to commercial farmers around the UK and they are the longest consistent sellers of Charollais sheep at the breed society’s Worcester Premier Sale each year.

“I enjoy the satisfaction of producing top quality sheep for both breeding and commercial farmers,” Mr Marwood said.

“Currently we have an excellent group of stock rams so this sale will not essentially alter our stocking density.”

The sale at Craven Cattle Marts in Skipton, overseen by auctioneer Ted Ogden, starts at 11am on Saturday and includes Mr Marwood’s supreme champion sheep from this year’s Kilnsey Show.