Heavy rain and mindless dirt bikers mean our farm resembles a swamp - Jill Thorp

Jill Thorp. Credit: Gary Longbottom
Jill Thorp. Credit: Gary Longbottom
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We’ve had a thoroughly stressful week battling with the mindless invasion of dirt bikes.

No amount of locked gates will keep them out when you have mile after mile of sheep mesh fencing they can flatten. The tups are slowly being turned out, but even that is becoming a nightmare now all our fences are no longer stockproof.

An awful lot of thought and studying of bloodlines goes into our breeding programme, especially with the Woodlands, so the last thing we need is for tups to be getting mixed up. We are helpless to prevent this selfish vandalism and trespass.

The cows began their long and steady walk back towards the loading pens last Sunday. Their grazing area covers quite a large area, stretching across woodlands and streams up to a fairly rough, stoney patch where we feed them.

Unfortunately, the narrow road and steep slope down to the field makes it impossible to load there so we have to walk them back to the far side to safely get them on the wagon. It’s always a stressful time, trying to keep them calm and together and of course a good dry forecast is essential. After last year’s fiasco of a not so well constructed corral and several escapees, many hours had been spent upgrading and strengthening the pens.

Paul, being a master at over engineering, made a veritable fortress and thankfully everything went to plan. Once loaded, it was an hour’s trip back to Stott Hall where they will spend the winter months, their calves arriving from March onwards.

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As is the case for all farmers, our days are dictated and often ruined by the weather. We’re behind as usual and our farm now resembles a swamp. Moving sheep proves a battle of wills as many gateways are submerged or big mud pits.

Sweep, Paul’s dog, becomes increasingly frustrated as the sheep huddle in a tight bunch, circling in the gateways, reluctant to get their feet wet. Eventually one makes a half-hearted effort to leap the water jump, misjudges the width and lands with an undignified splash and squelch in the middle and then gets flattened as the rest make a mad dash for the other side. These daily scenarios often end up with the odd welly being left behind as John-William frequently discovers!

His new pony, Seb, has settled in really well. He seems to be very calm and accepting of his surroundings which is just as well as John-William never gives him a minute’s peace. Bren has been kept busy with a show most weekends.

The stash of red rosettes is growing as the two of them seem to have really clicked with their jumping and are proving to be a force to be reckoned with. After winning a showing class at the weekend, an unexpected spook in the Championship saw them part company in their lap of honour.

As I rushed over, I saw the look of abject humiliation spread across his face. My concern only compounded his embarrassment, so after hoisting him back on board, I quickly retreated amidst murmurs of “I can manage, I’m not a kid anymore!”