Over the stable door: Actor’s mart appearance sets tongues wagging

Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
Jo Foster sorting out the tack at her stables at Menston near Leeds.
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There was heightened excitement amidst the sheep pens at Skipton livestock auction last Monday when the actor Sean Bean was spotted unloading sheep from a trailer. Word quickly spread that the Sheffield-born actor must have abandoned a lucrative acting career to take up shepherding.

“He was in that Game of Thrones programme mi’ son watches,” one farmer muttered to another.

“Aye. ‘Appen his fallen on hard times since they killed him off. Not sure he’ll make much of a living farming sheep though,” the other chuckled.

Both were proved wrong when a vast entourage of film crew and cameras followed the actor as he attempted to drive the sheep into a pen.

The actor and his crew were shooting a film called Dark River written by the acclaimed Yorkshire director Clio Bernard. The story may be one which many farming folk can relate to and is an adaptation of Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass.

It is based around a tenant farmer’s daughter, Alice, who is to be played by the brilliant Ruth Wilson - star of Luther and Jane Eyre.

Following the death of her father, Alice returns home for the first time in years to claim the tenancy of the family farm she believes is rightfully hers. But she is confronted by a brother she barely recognises, worn down by years of trying to keep the farm going, who is naturally hostile to her claim.

Their dispute unearths traumatic memories for Alice, memories which have remained dormant for years but which now threaten both of their futures.

Much of the filming has been shot on a farm in Malham so members of the cast may well have taken time out to explore the beautiful local countryside.

I can’t wait for the film’s release later in the year. It has such a brilliant cast which may well include a few familiar farming faces skulking reluctantly in the background.

It was National Farm Safety Week earlier this month, an initiative launched by the Farm Safety Foundation (FSF) which aims to cut the number of accidents which give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK, accounting for 15-20 per cent of all worker fatalities. Figures show there were 152 fatalities in farming, forestry and fishing in the last five years.

Most common deaths are vehicle related or came as a result of falling from a height.

Danger in the farmyard is something all farm children are brought up to be aware of. My brother and I enjoyed the rough and tumble of a farm upbringing but the dangers were drummed in to us from toddler age.

Health and safety regulations are now so stringent it is easier for me to carry out any climbing or vehicle operating to avoid risk to my employees. It makes the job harder but fortunately I am in a position to do it. Many elderly farmers aren’t so lucky, they may have no-one else to ask and are putting themselves at risk. Others just refuse to see themselves as at risk.

The FSF are not allowing complacency to set in. Along with providing practical training and gaining support from key external organisations that provide relevant expertise they are attending many large agricultural events throughout the year to promote such a serious cause.