Askrigg is still a traditional Yorkshire Dales retreat

At the start of every spring for centuries, a parade of pregnant ewes have hoofed it downhill through the Yorkshire Dales village of Askrigg to lower pastures, where they benefit from gentler climes when they are at their most delicate.

The Hodgson family perform the annual springtime task of shepherding their ewes through the village of Askrigg.  Picture: Paul Barker /
The Hodgson family perform the annual springtime task of shepherding their ewes through the village of Askrigg. Picture: Paul Barker /

This year was no different and on Easter Sunday, the Hodgson family managed the three-day task of leading a flock of around 90 sheep down off the tops for two miles to the “home field” in the lower lands.

The Hodgsons have been the ones doing this for the last 90 years or so, with the responsibility now falling to farmers James and his father David, with the help of James’ wife Heather and their children.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The passage of the sheep through the village streets is a spectacle which attracts locals and visitors and it is an act that reassuringly reaffirms that farming - alongside tourism - is still very much at the core of life in this northern Wensleydale retreat.

“Askrigg is still very much a working village,” says Heather Hodgson.

A concern of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and district councils in the park is that young families are leaving smaller communities in the Dales because of too few affordable homes and well-paid jobs, and shrinking services but Askrigg seems to be coping with modern pressures.

“We have some new people who have come in but everyone who comes brings something with them, a skill or a craft,” Mrs Hodgson said.

“We have our fair share of holiday cottages, a butchers, three pubs and a school. It’s a very busy village and there are lots of traditional Dales names here still.”

Gemma Anderson moved to Askrigg from Leeds with her husband about seven years ago when they made their holiday home in the village their permanent residence.

Since then the mother of two has thrown herself into community life. She has served on the parochial parish council at St Oswald’s Church and is secretary of the Askrigg Sports committee which is preparing to hold an community event during the late May bank holiday featuring sports, a fancy dress parade, fell running and a barbecue.

She also chairs The Askrigg Foundation, a charity that plans use a vacant building in the market place for affordable, local occupancy homes.

“There’s a real mix of people here,” she said. “There are those who are from multiple generations in the same village and people who choose to live here but the village still has a traditional farming background.

“The farmers go past and you hear different tractor engines, and you get to the point where you know who’s going to come next. It’s very comforting. You really notice the seasons compared to what you would in the city.”