A few weeks of high pressure, blue skies and sunshine has turned our verdant pastures into browned, crisp prairies.
The land is rock solid, giving off a resounding crunch as you stroll across it, a real worry now that the moors are tinder dry. Many of the springs at Stott Hall have all but dried up, leaving us with the time consuming job of carting water.
The sheep search out shade, broken down walls, an old quarry up on the hillside, even peat hags provide that much needed respite from the penetrating sun. An old plantation of pine trees in the middle of the cows’ grazing ensures they can get into shade when the heat becomes too much.
Unfortunately one of our calves over at Farnley has succumbed to the heat, so much so that he had to be taken along with his mother up to Paul’s family farm just outside Holmfirth.
Severe heat stroke had rendered him almost lifeless and despite endless electrolytes, he’s struggling to recover.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time for us, the day before we were due to set off for Harrogate. For a time it looked unlikely that Paul would be able to join us but thankfully a good friend stepped in to help out with the calf.
Of course nothing ever goes quite to plan and the calf was the first of a series of disasters that really pushed us to the limit. We seem to have more than our fair share of illegal dirt bikers at Stott Hall that are causing serious damage to the moors.
Aside from tearing up great areas of regenerated moorland, they not only leave gates open but cut countless sections of fencing.
Their usual starting point is next to the junction of the motorway just past the farm, resulting in sheep free to wander by the slip road and along a very busy main road.
The police rang us just before we were due to set off, a dead sheep was lying in the road with several others milling about. We headed up there feeling utterly flat. A lovely big Gritstone shearling, the life knocked out of her, her lamb stood close by staring forlornly.
She’s not the first we’ve had to lift from the roads in the last few months and I doubt she’ll be the last. All because a few imbeciles want to joy ride across our land. Such a pointless waste.
Several days earlier a ewe and lamb had been left in the road, bloodied and with broken legs, another casualty of this selfish behaviour. It’s soul destroying and it stripped us of our excitement for the Great Yorkshire.
We got the rest of the sheep back in, fixed yet more fencing and headed back to the farm to pack the rest of our gear for a long and hot Great Yorkshire Show.
We know we’re not the only ones to suffer and some of the messages of support we’ve received from friends have helped immensely, the same friends we’ll be enjoying the next few days with.