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October 2022

Written for Cumbria Life.


October is such a lovely time of year where I’ve accepted that long summer days are over and I finally start to slow down a little. But that seasonal shift didn’t seem to happen this year. Much like watching nature getting mixed up and blackberries deciding to ripen in August or fruit trees blooming in February, this October felt like the rush of activity when spring gets underway. It was surprising but unsettling too.

My Lake District Tweed project finally materialised. The idea of creating valley specific tweeds came in an inspired moment in September 2021, and it took a full year to see the results. It was twelve months of intermittent bouts of worry when things got bumpy, but I held my nerve and I’m delighted with the results. I was happily sending out all the pre-orders, getting that job done before I started to promote the tweeds, when I took James Rebanks one of our Ullswater throws made with his Herdwick wool. He loved it and very kindly promoted it to his loyal Twitter followers. And that was that. In less than twenty four hours the Ullswater Throw had sold out and we had so many sales of our other products too. I spend days and days packing orders, writing thank you notes and cramming my car with boxes for the post office. I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy. In a way, it was good the production took so long as it was the perfect time of year to start selling them – when people start dreaming of baked potatoes, pyjamas by 9pm and thick wool blankets. Or maybe that’s just me!

I’ve just come back from Dumfries House in Scotland. A stately home owed by King Charles with a farm and a great educational remit. I was there with Zoe Fletcher who I work with in The Wool Library. We had been asked to give two presentations at a Prince’s Foundation and Fashion Council Germany conference, called Field, Farm and Fashion for young fashion students and industry experts. It was quite a line up of speakers including the creative director of Harris Tweed. We had been asked specifically to talk about regenerative farming and wool. These things are always nerve wracking but we both just spoke of what we knew with our usual passion for the topics and we were very pleased with the response. The only problem was, it gave me a brilliant idea for a new project…..


As Maria says it’s been a hectic autumn.  Mine has been filled with exhibitions, interviews, conferences, product launches and a bit of farming thrown in between. Oh, and a fair bit of newsworthy chaos chucked at us by our ever changing government. In amongst all this, we managed a very quick busmans holiday to the very top of mainland Scotland to visit the brilliant Joyce Campbell of “This Farming Life” fame. Joyce keeps Cheviot sheep like me and is an excellent stockwoman. We had a wonderful few days visiting farms, buying sheep and absorbing the wildness of the much more open countryside of Caithness.  

The Sale at Lairg is a Mecca for anyone interested in the North Country Lairg-Type Cheviot breed (it’s a connoseurs game). The auction is an old wooden setup, built at the side of the railway, harking back to the days when the sheep would travel south by train. It has an almost Shakespearean experience with the audience sat on terraced wooden benches transfixed by the performance of the shepherds and their sheep in the ring and the musical patter of the auctioneer.  The auctioneer’s patter is different to our own at home so for us it’s much more memorable.

“Look at the skin on that.”

“You won’t go home disappointed.”

“Look at the length on him.”

“You know you want him.”

“He’ll get to work right away.”

“That’s some power.”

Maria said I could use these in my Tinder profile!

I know it’s a long way to go to buy a few sheep but it’s so invigorating to meet up with people as enthusiastic and passionate about farming, nature, cultural heritage and of course sheep. I talked to people from all across the UK and heard shepherds talking in numerous accents from deep broad Scots to fast-flowing Welsh.

To many it must seem strange that most of the crofters, during The Highland Clearances, were driven off their land to be replaced by sheep yet they’re back now, taking such great pride in breeding the very best. But the big change in recent times is another form of clearance, this time to off-set the carbon emissions of big business. Where there were cows, sheep and people there is now nothing. So many empty houses lay crumbling along the roadsides and old buildings falling into ruin. Without employment, there are no families that need them. The stark difference to the Lake District was very evident. Despite the reduction in jobs in agriculture, there is still industry and employment and it makes me even more determined to ensure we do our bit to help keep this a thriving vibrant community. 

September 2022

Written for Cumbria Life.


The first frosts of autumn are upon us and the morning mists followed by mellow sunshine make you feel both nostalgic and exited at the same time. As I said in our last article, autumn is the time for the hill farms to sell their crop of lambs, ewes and tips to fresh pastures. I was apprehensive as to what the sales would be like due to the drought in the south and east of the country but on the whole things have gone well so far. Prices have been ever so slightly down on last year but not by much and tips (rams) have sold very well. It’s early days in the sale season but with the good weather and reasonable prices most farmers have smiles on their faces and are full of enthusiasm for the upcoming breeding season.
Unfortunately we didn’t make it London for my birthday as work and a major National event got in the way. The passing of HRH Elizabeth was quite a shock despite her age. I was lucky enough to have met her briefly when I was a student and I was taken by her warmth and genuine interest in meeting different people. Her presence as head of state for most of our lives has been one constant in an ever changing world but I am sure King Charles will carry on her legacy. Someone did say that his coming to the throne was a bit like being a farmers son and only getting hold of the cheque book when you ready to retire. Thankfully that wasn’t the situation in my case.
Not going on holiday for my birthday did have some advantages, I got caught up on a few jobs due to the excellent weather and we had some visitors here and shared some of the amazing things the Lake District has to offer as well as the usual trips round the livestock.
For our next holiday we are heading north to Caithness at the very north east of Scotland to do, what else?,  but look at farms, buy some new breeding and have a rest among friends. It’s amazing how many great friends I have met through social media, my love of photography, livestock and country life has linked us up with people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. So last year we stayed at Heatherlea Croft, the home of Sabrina and George Ross. I first met George about fifteen years ago via his YouTube channel of sheep and wild birds. Since we first met, Sabrina has built up her own flock of Black Cheviots and sells wool and wool products on line. It’s amazing that we both now have partners so inspired by wool. This year we are staying with Joyce Campbell of BBC’s  “This Farming Life” fame, Joyce is a really inspirational woman and also keen on photography and Cheviot sheep. Joyce and Maria have built up a really strong friendship and it will be great to go and see her farm and livestock first hand.

Next month I will let you know how we got on, on our busman’s holiday and our planning for winter.


We have had a lovely month of visitors at the farm, lots of swimming in the lake and making the most of the weather before the days shorten even more. 

This summer we hosted tour groups at the farm. I was quite apprehensive as we’ve not got the tidiest of farms and I didn’t think we’d have all that much to show people, but they went very well and were actually a real joy. It was an American cruise ship company that that has started to dock in Barrow that got in touch with us and we had ten groups of around twenty people come to the farm over the summer. The groups are young-elderly, if you know what I mean: active in mind but less so in body so they definitely didn’t want to be walking long distances around the farm. So we stopped in one field and they’d ask interesting questions and loved meeting the turkeys, Honeysuckle my Jersey cow, George the horse and a variety of sheep breeds. I’d give them tea and homemade flapjack in the barn and they’d usually buy some soap or wool in the shop too. The best bit was the praise they’d gave me for all the side businesses I run alongside the farm. We all need a pat on the back now and again!

I recently made a visit to the weaving mill that are making my Lake District Tweed. There have been many delays and setbacks due to Covid hitting each of the businesses processing the wool along the way. The weaving mill also struggled with staff being off with Covid and had to prioritise the bigger companies they work for. Because they had companies that threatened to pull the job if not completed for a certain date, I got pushed to the back of the queue.  But we’re almost there and they’re just labelling the throws at the moment. I’ll tell you all about it next month.