Herdwicks with an independent streak cause raised temperatures for some at Jill Thorp's family farm between the lanes of the M62

The independent Herdwick sheep are raising temperatures at Stott Hall Farm.The independent Herdwick sheep are raising temperatures at Stott Hall Farm.
The independent Herdwick sheep are raising temperatures at Stott Hall Farm.
These certainly feel like Biblical times.

A drought, floods and the plague. What else does 2020 have to throw at us? We soldier on, complain about the weather, livestock prices and the constantly bewildering behaviour from a minority of our fellow countrymen.

Thankfully for us, our TV aerial recently packed in so we are spared the depressing scenes that seem to fill our television screens. Unfortunately, that means the Grassmen DVDs are back out, endless torture for me, sheer delight for father and son!

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Scammonden Bridge remains closed whilst they put a new, higher safety barrier up, in the hope that it will prevent any more attempted suicides.

As this plan has been discussed for many years, it’s to be hoped it works and the bridge will cease to be the place of such desperation. For us it means a long diversion, even longer as we have to drive all the way to the bridge, check the sheep and then head all the way back.

With sheep theft rife, we’ve been spending a lot of time up there, constantly checking, scanning the hillsides for unwanted visitors. On one particularly wet morning, we decided to make a start on some much-needed fence repairs. It turned into a bigger job than expected, but after two days up there, it was all looking ship shape.

The waifs and strays were gathered, gates padlocked and we headed home. Paul was feeling particularly smug as he’d managed to capture all the free ranging Herdwicks, the “bane of my life, thorn in my side, arrogant, woolly rooting ...” and so on.

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John-William and I, however, are quite fond of them. I love their wild, unruly appearance, their tenacity. But most of all I love their ‘no beating around the bush’ manner. No lambing shed for them. No penning up, suckling, mothering on. Nothing, they just get on with it, up on the hill.

The following morning we did our lengthy detour to check the sheep. The roads were clear, no sheep wandering the verges, everyone exactly where they were meant to be. A collective sigh from all, and we continued on our way.

That evening, feeling it was perhaps a wasted trip, we headed up to Deanhead. Just as I was relaxing back into my seat, I was thrust forward, the seatbelt cutting into my chest as the pick-up screeched to an emergency stop.

The wheels spun as he hit reverse, throttle hard down. Again the screeching halt. And there it was, grazing nonchalantly with twin lambs at its side. The skin on Paul’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the steering wheel, eyes bulging, his face turning puce. The temperature quickly rose as steam poured from him.

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I turned to give John-William a warning look, a “don’t say a word look”. But I should have known better. A wry smile spread across his grubby little face, dirty hands grabbed the back of his dad’s seat as he lurched forward and gleefully shrieked: “Hey dad, look, there’s one of your Herdwicks.”

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