The lives of Amanda Owen, her husband Clive and their nine children living on a remote sheep farm in the Yorkshire Dales seems to have caught the imagination of the British public.
The fifth season of the Channel 5 My Yorkshire Farm has just finished and despite some unwanted attention on her married life, Owen (aka the Yorkshire Shepherdess) is as chatty as ever.
She has a new book out – her fifth – this time full of stunning photographs she has taken over the years at the family farm at Ravenseat through the seasons.
“This is the book I’ve always wanted to write,” says Owen.
“I have a back catalogue of around 100,000 photographs that I have taken over the years. I post some of them on my social media or use them in the many talks and presentations I did before Covid hit. I think sometimes people look at me at these events and don’t believe what I really do. Just because I put some nail varnish on and put on some high heels doesn’t mean the rest of the time I am in my wellies and an old coat, at the arse end of a sheep.
“People kept asking whether I had ever thought of putting them in a book and so I thought why not? Another question people ask me a lot is how on earth do I feed nine hungry children and so I thought I’d include some of my recipes,” says Owen, who was recently seen presenting an episode of Winter Walks for BBC 4 for once without her family around her.
Owen is not from a farming background and growing up in Huddersfield it was the books of James Herriot and a book of photographs Hill Shepherd by Eliza and John Forder that really ignited her passion to become a shepherdess.
“I was told I wasn’t bright enough to be a vet but I was fascinated by Hill Shepherd and the incredible photographs. It was this book that made me want to be a shepherdess. Not to think I have my own book of photographs that might inspire other people like me.”
The latest book is simply entitled Celebrating the Seasons with the Yorkshire Shepherdess – and it is just that. “It made sense to follow the seasons and have a short narrative about life at Ravenseat.
“The only danger is that you risk making it look like winter lasts for eight months and summer for four.”
Some of the photographs are taken by her children and she said they had great fun whittling down the photographs for the final book.
“It was very much a collaborative process. I am not a trained photographer by any means. Autofocus is a wonderful thing. I work with children and animals in the most beautiful part of Yorkshire.
“I’d have to be a real muppet not to get some decent photographs. And the joy of a digital camera is that you can just keep snapping until you get the shot you want.
“It is really a record of what’s happening on the farm, and I still do that today. I don’t use a tripod, I just take pictures of what I see. From hard times to pictures of the children – just capturing the moments.”
One of her favourites is of two of her girls lying in a hay meadow covering their eyes from the sun. “It is just so natural and just a record of a moment in time. I regard myself as an opportunist photographer.”
Initially she started taking photographs just so that she had a pictorial record of life on the farm with Clive and their children. Raven, Reuben, Miles, Edith, Violet, Sidney, Annas, Clementine and Nancy.
Then in 2012 she started posting some of them on Twitter having no idea what a social media sensation she and her family would become.
“I would have come up with a better name than Amandaowen8 if I’d thought it was going to take off,” says Owen, who now has 183,000 followers on twitter and 437,000 on Instagram.
After being featured in the popular ITV series The Dales, Amanda began documenting the fascinating story of her farming life, before publishing four bestselling books The Yorkshire Shepherdess in 2014, A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess in 2016, The Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess in 2019 and Tales From The Farm in spring 2021. For the last six years Owen and her family have featured in Channel 5’s hugely popular documentary series Our Yorkshire Farm, which achieved ratings of between 3.5 million and four million viewers each week when series four recently aired.
Inevitably, opening yourself up like that has its downside.
Reported problems in the Owen’s marriage led to them issuing a statement in which they said: “With the TV show and the books we’ve always aimed to show the reality of life on the farm, and just like any marriage we have our stresses and strains, coupled with all the complexities of what we do on the farm and bringing up nine kids.
“We’re a normal family and we’ve never said our marriage is perfect. Unfortunately, the constant intrusion into our lives from the media has amplified a rocky patch that we’re going through. We ask that the media respect our privacy as we work through this.”
But Amanda says despite this she doesn’t regret inviting the public into their lives and she really doesn’t have time to worry too much about what people say about her.
“I think it is important that people see the reality of living on a farm. We are just a normal family dealing with everything life throws at us and the programme is life as it’s happening, whether there’s someone filming it or not and that’s what keeps everybody grounded.
“It is hard work being a farmer and I will do everything it takes to provide for my family and that means having a lot of fingers in a lot of pies in order to make a living – you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t.
“We are told to diversify and so we opened up for afternoon teas and then when the pandemic happened we were told to produce more food. What we have done at Ravenseat is for six months run the sheep farm and for six months do afternoon teas.”
She said although they are used to being remote, lockdown was tough.
“We have people coming by all the time and we missed them when they weren’t coming any more. Add onto that home schooling nine children and you get the picture.”
She says Christmas at Ravenseat will be a pared down affair. “The pandemic made us all realise what was really important about Christmas and I think it will be the same again next year.
“The children don’t get masses of presents, just one or two and I think we might just have turkey, gravy and chips as that is really what everyone loves.”
Celebrating the Seasons with The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen is published by Pan Macmillan, £20.