A pilgrimage to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales for the Blue Faced Leicester sheep sale - Jill Thorp

Life between the lanes on the M62, with Jill Thorp.

A smile from a Blue Faced Leicester sheep. Picture: James Hardisty.

The sales are coming thick and fast, lambs are leaving Stott Hall and new tups arriving. Paul frantically works his way through his sheep as each sale day approaches.

Mules, pure breds, store lambs, fat lambs, gimmers and broken mouthed. They are all sorted into batches and head off to different sales. I love going to the different markets, especially when the breed sales are on. Rows of beautiful sheep grace the pens, some stretching way beyond our budget when they hit the ring, others coming home with us.

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However, there is no other that can set my heart racing quite like the Blue Faced Leicester sale can. Every year whilst I eagerly await it, Paul quietly dreads it. After many years of making the trip north to Hawes with me, he is resigned to the inevitable and has long since given up on his jokes about their short shelf life.

In the pitch dark, last week, with rain lashing down on the windscreen we made our annual pilgrimage to the little market town of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale.

“You’ll note I haven’t put the trailer on,” he muttered as we drove through the grey, wet murk.

“We’re not buying,” he said.“Just a day out,” he said.

I nodded whilst watching the windscreen wipers swipe back and forth. He continued, in his placating manner, telling me that I really did have enough and I absolutely could not have anymore until I’d at least sold some. That’s the thing about sheep you see, he continued, you need to keep selling them, you can’t just hoard them. I smiled, staring intently ahead, waiting for a glimpse of the mighty Ribblehead Viaduct. It loomed briefly out of the dense fog and then vanished again. We passed through the beautiful little village of Selside before dropping down into Hawes.

We parked up and taking advantage of the break in the rain headed inside. I lost count of the number of times I heard him mutter “we’re not buying” followed by his attempt at praising me, “you’ve done well, last year’s are all still alive”.

As the hours passed, tups came and went. Some within our price range, many not. Familiar faces lined the ring, all intently studying each tup as it entered the ring. I eventually went to look at the females and whilst Paul was chatting to a farmer we’d previously bought from, I was busy marking my catalogue.

I could see him eyeing me suspiciously, his frown deepening. He caught up with me just as they called for the selling of the females and took his place on a bench with a quiet look of resignation. As the bidding started and with little force, he dutifully raised his hand when he felt a sharp dig in his ribs.

The hammer fell to us twice and much to Paul’s utter dismay, I managed to secure an incredibly well bred shearling ewe outside of the ring, that had not sold. He backed onto the loading dock and between the two of us we lifted our new girls into the back of the freshly bedded down pick-up.