32 Dentdale from Spice Gill


32-kev-milburnKevin Milburn – Farmer

This is taken from Spice Gill Allotment, where the sheep go in the summer. I like that view because when I’m up there feeding sheep, no matter how bad a day or nice a day it is, the viaducts are always stood there. I often think how much work and effort went into making them. I think everybody nowadays is in such a big rush; life goes by too fast. Sometimes I think you have to make time just to take it in.

I farm about 400 sheep and I’ve got 20 cows now. You try and better yourself every year, you try and get your stock better. It keeps us busy. We do a lot of drystone walling in the dale too, for farmers.

I’ve always walled. I just picked it up from my dad. It’s the kind of thing you just have to learn for yourself to a certain degree – the more you do the better you get at it. It’s not something you can really read out of a book. You have to keep going and doing bits, and then you get shouted at a few times when it’s not right. It’s a seasonal kind of thing – you don’t want to be walling when it’s right wintery and horrible. It’s more a summertime job.

We can get some bad weather, that’s why we try to keep all our inland walls up. A lot get left to go down, which is a shame. We try to keep ours up, and replant our hedges. A lot of folk just cut their hedges, but you cut them for so long and then they just die out in the bottom, and then lambs start walking through. With a good hedge, your stock shouldn’t be able to get through. And with proper good hedges, little lambs go in and nibble out bits of leaves – that’s nourishment for them as well.

You’re in the heart of sheep farming up here. I grew up five miles down the road. My dad was a builder, but we’ve always had a few sheep. I always knew I wanted to work outside. I’ve been farming round here for about ten years now.

I like it in the autumn, because everything’s looking at its best. This year’s been a struggle getting fodder, but usually you’ve got all your fodder there, ready for winter. It’s busy in autumn, because you’re rudding the tups, and you want your different colours for your different weeks in lambing time. Every day we’re going round all our tups marking the chests. So say if we louse on the 5th November the sheep will be due on the 1st April. We usually start with yellow; so all your yellow-bummed sheep are due the first week, and so on with the different colours. Then the sheep go up onto this high ground, and we feed them through to the middle of March. Usually January time we have them scanned, see how many lambs they’re having. Come March you bring them down off the hills, and set them up into the different colours. Lambing time’s busy: April into May. The ewes with one lamb go back onto the hills, and the ewes with two lambs stop down in the pastures – they need a bit better grass. Middle of May when the ewes come up onto the top fields, our meadows get cleared, ready for growing your crops – silo and hay. We usually harvest the end of June/July. Then all the sheep are clipped end of July. Then usually in August we take all the lambs off. They get sold about September/October time. And then you start all over again.

I’m probably at the point where I wouldn’t want to get any bigger. I enjoy working for other farms – we do a lot of helping each other out: I’ll go and clip for one of my mates, and then they’ll come and help me clip – it works like that. If I got much bigger I wouldn’t have time to go and help my other friends. And then it gets a bit lonely. You can have a long winter sometimes; when you’re not dealing with folk all the time, they can be long days. So I like to work alongside folk.