New life follows old tradition of an Askrigg farm

Pregnant ewes which normally spend the rest of the year on the high fells, are brought down through Askrigg to give birth in the valley bottom. Photo by Anita Watson.

It’s a family tradition dating back nearly a century, as fourth-generation Askrigg farmer, James Hogdson, brought his 160 pregnant Swaledale sheep safely down from the high fells on the last leg of a gentle, one and a half mile journey.

Within hours of arriving at Lowlands Farm in the spring sunshine, the ewes will give birth, mainly to single lambs, those producing triplets or twins having lambed earlier.

The move was done in three stages over three evenings, the first bringing them to a field half-way along Low Straits Lane, and the second to an overnight stop on pastures at the top of Moor Road. Then, on Sunday, they progressed in a relatively orderly fashion down towards Lowlands in the setting sun.  

This story continue after the adverts:

The journey of the pregnant ewes on the first Sunday in April dates back to 1926 when it was originally made by the flock belonging to James’s great-grandfather, Richard Mason Hodgson. Then, a traffic-free main street was the norm, but in recent times the ewes have had to thread their way between the vehicles which normally pack either side of the road.

This year, however, was different as owners had moved their cars for the photograph (above) by Anita Watson, which will be used on a 2018 calendar she is producing for Breast Cancer Care, featuring scenes of the Yorkshire Dales.

Hours before the journey of the ewes, Anita had asked people, via notes and knocking on doors, if they would keep the street clear of vehicles at the crucial time – a difficult request in a village with so many tourists.

“I was amazed at people’s generous response. It was incredible to have the street clear of cars at the vital time. Everybody was so helpful and it made for a much better picture,” she said.