The "back breaking" work of shearing is done and the first show of the season is on the horizon for the residents at Stott Hall Farm

Shearing has begun in earnest at Stott Hall with most of our ewe and tup hogs, several kilos lighter and back out on the hill, all looking well.

The first show of the season is on the horizon for residents at the farm on the M62
The first show of the season is on the horizon for residents at the farm on the M62

Paul has added to his weary, foot-dragging gait by now stooping, one hand clasped on his back, face etched with a permanent grimace.

He tries to avoid the clipping shed but sometimes has no choice but to don his moccasins and muck in. Its a back-breaking task, quite literally, and one which leaves him crippled after only a handful of sheep. Whilst his brother, Casey, and William, a young lad that helps us out, swiftly clip their way through the sheep, fifty a day can leave Paul exhausted.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Following a broken back many years ago, I can sympathise entirely with his agony. Mine can often reduce me to tears, so thankfully clipping has never been something I’ve taken on. The wool board has returned again this year, following several successful shearing courses in the past held at Stott Hall.

It’s ideal having them here as it forces us into getting the sheep shed mucked out in good time and the transition from lambing to shearing begins. Our show team of Whitefaced Woodlands are all done, leaving us with the usual father and son argument over who shows what!

Our first show of the season, at Harden Moss is fast approaching, however, this year we’ll just be spectating as Paul’s brother, Casey, is judging the Woodlands.

In its 109th year, the sheepdog trials and show marks the beginning of our season where the hard work and worries of the winter that often overwhelm you, can be forgotten as familiar faces greet you. Pens of fantastic hill breeds like Lonks, Gritstones and Swales, sheep shearing demonstrations and the sheer brilliance of watching a shepherd and his or her dog work the sheep all make this longstanding event an incredibly popular one.

The local hunts turn out to parade as do some fantastic examples of vintage tractors. I am in no doubt that events like these keep many of us going and are as eagerly anticipated as many a foreign holiday would be for some.

Certainly for some of the more windswept hill farms where visitors are few and far between, this meeting of friends and showcasing of livestock is as vital to our wonderful industry as it is to our wellbeing and mental health.

In this age of constant virtual social interaction, it’s easy to forget that there are many that still have no idea about social media or perhaps can’t get out and about like they once did.

Whilst many believe they should be resigned to the history books, these skilled shepherds have many a valuable lesson to pass on to the next generation.

With good weather forecast, Paul has left the young ’uns to shearing whilst he got on with mowing. With many an acre now down it’s unlikely we’ll see much of him until the weekend when we’ll enjoy sitting on the hallowed turf of Harden Moss and enjoy a good few pints and lots of laughs with treasured friends.