The farmer phoned to say the sheep were in danger of being marooned as all the flat fields were submerged - Jill Thorp

Jill Thorp with husband Paul and son John-WilliamJill Thorp with husband Paul and son John-William
Jill Thorp with husband Paul and son John-William
The first signs of winter hit last weekend just in time to put a dampener on our Christmas party.

The horizontal sheets of rain soon turned to sleet and by lunchtime great fluffy balls of snow were falling from the sky. I tried to ignore the doomed weather forecast of heavy snow across our area for later that day and hoped that the roads would remain open.

Thankfully, the majority of our friends have four-wheel drive motors and are rarely put off by a bit of snow. With the promise of free booze and a hearty spread, they were soon pouring through the door, pausing to dust the snow off before settling in front of the fire.

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The constant deluge of rain has put an even greater strain on our workload. Every job takes twice as long, the gateways are swamped, feeders are disappearing into the mud.

The sheep, all hardy hill breeds, are starting to grow weary of the endless cold and wet. Rows of hunkered down bodies seek refuge under the walls. Our hedgerows we planted seven years ago are starting to be of use now, they’ve filled out enough to provide a degree of shelter from the cruel weather that doesn’t show any sign of letting up.

The Blue Faced Leicesters are, of course, safely tucked up in one of our hillside barns. There is no doubt that this weather would see them off. My two in-foal mares and an elderly mare are also inside.

They live in our other stone barn, perched up on the grassy slopes above the farm. Their usual grazing has become a quagmire and having them indoors means I can ensure they’re getting the necessary nutrients in their diet to support their growing foals.

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Ffiona, who we bought from a Welsh Mountain pony stud in North Wales many years ago is showing her age.

The weather has really taken its toll on her, so she will now spend the harsh winter months indoors. Over the years she has given us three daughters and a son, all of which we still own.

John-William will be riding a mare out of Ffiona next season, something that will make me extremely proud, two home breds together!

The boys have had an incredibly hectic week, mostly spent on the road moving sheep. We rent land over towards the east coast, near North Cave where we winter our lambs. Unfortunately, the constant rain has made it unusable. The farmer who owns the land had phoned to say the sheep were in danger of being marooned as all the flat fields were submerged which left us with no choice but to go and fetch them.

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As everybody is suffering the same headache, we’re struggling to find somewhere dry to put them, our only option being to bring them home and start putting a dent into our already dwindling forage pile.

As Paul rather bluntly put it one morning: “I could make more money, work less hours and be warm and dry stacking shelves at Sainsbury’s.” Like I’m sure many other farmers do, I often wonder why we do it.

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