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The Hefted Farmer



Profits from this book will be used to promote and sustain hefted Swaledale sheep and hill farming.

About this book:

  • ISBN: 9781904524205 (paperback)

  • Published 2004

  • Price £10.00 + postage

  • 134 pages

  • Illustrated with 30 colour photographs, 40 black and white photographs and 20 line drawings.

By the same author:

Letters Home


The bleak mountains of northern England have imposed hardship on generations of farmers who shepherd their Pennine flocks, but the scourge of the FMD epidemic of 2001 tested the real strength of their resilience. This book captures their fortitude and their philosophical acceptance of the forces of nature, but also identifies them as an integral element of a uniquely inspiring environment. It brings to life a corner of England that embodies values of spirit and endeavour increasingly scarce in modern times.
Lawrence Alderson CBE, Chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust

Susan Haywood and Barbara Crossley here reveal the ecology of hill farmer, hefted flock and landscape in upper Swaledale. The Hefted Farmer is an essential read for those who want to understand what was nearly lost in the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001.
Revd. Dr. Roger Paul, Rector of Kirkby Stephen and member of British Ecological Society.

This book is one of the few good things that came in the aftermath of the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, and shows how the fragile pattern of life in one of those special parts of Yorkshire, Swaledale, could so easily have been lost for ever. It demonstrates how the landscape, seasons, wildlife and the lives of the people and their sheep are intimately connected and how the way of life remains vulnerable even without national disasters. It is to be hoped that changes in the way that farming is supported will allow such areas and their local people and livestock to thrive without becoming rural theme parks. Dr Agnes Winter
Former President of the Sheep Veterinary Society and of the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Breeders' Association

Lest we Forget:
This book acts as a good example of hefted work as it is written, edited and published within a hefted community. The Hefted Farmer is jointly authored by Susan Haywood and Barbara Crossley - the actual title comes from a champion of rural causes, HRH The Prince of Wales.

The author's sensitive and knowledgeable text leads the reader through the establishment of hefts and the etymology of the dialectic terminology used in the Northern Dales. The development of these hefts is linked to the history of the upper part of Swaledale. The detail is a delight in particular the attention that the shepherds paid to the individual recognition of each one of their breeding flock.

The description of the hill farmers year should be required reading for all animal science and veterinary students and the observation on both the sheep and the rural population are acute.

The farmers tales give a real feel of the difficulties facing rural areas from the access to services such as schools or shops or doctors or even extension courses through to the natural love and care that these isolated communities offer to the wild areas we others are so privileged to enjoy.

These wild areas are well depicted by two local illustrators Jocelyn Campbell and Jenny White-Cooper interspersed with well chosen photographs.

Susan Haywood easily fits the living history of her co authors contributions around the more agricultural observations of her contribution. Sue was very active in campaigning for sensible scientific approaches during the 2001 outbreak.

This book's importance is contained in the factual recollections of the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001. The fear and horror of this disease come over well in the stories; the political handling of the disease is fairly criticised -a telling comment- they probably know more than we do, but they dont understand- encapsulates the isolation and frustration that is still felt today. Such things must never happen again.

This is the message the book helps to carry forward. In 1968, the Northumberland committee report set out a way forward. By 2001, the predicted outbreak came. Computers ruled. Post codes drove the control. Personal sadness is tempered by the joy of a new birth bringing this book to a close.

This book deserves a wide audience and will help to continue to raise the profile of the acceptable ways we can control disease in animals in the 21st century. Susan Paul, Veterinary Times, March 2005

The Authors:
SUSAN Haywood is a veterinary pathologist who has spent her professional life teaching vet students at Liverpool University.

BARBARA Crossley has always been very interested in all kinds of social history, and fifteen years ago joined the Ambleside Oral History Society, one of the oldest in the country.

Cover illustration taken from a lino-cut by Marie Hartley.

More Reviews:

This book provides an insight into the lives of farmers working with hefted sheep flocks in Swaledale. There a number of important factors brought to light, such as the need to strike a balance between sheep and grouse, and the importance of agricultural shows to these isolated communities.

The narratives of the farmers highlight their passion for their stock and their oneness with their way of life. The anxieties and desperation suffered by farmers during the foot and mouth epidemic are clearly described, as are the pressures placed upon them by government agencies and conservation groups. Above all, the book gives us a clear account of the nature and importance of hefted sheep flocks. This is a way of farming that must be preserved, and it is hoped that those reading this book will be convinced of this also. Sandy Mackenzie, March 2005

This unusual title, 'The Hefted Farmer', by Susan Haywood and Barbara Crossley, provides a clue to its subject... Hefted or heafed sheep are those which graze, generation after generation, their individual tracts of fell without need of boundary walls. This is the story of the hardy breed of farmers who keep them.
The authors range comprehensively through the seasons and the hill farmers' year, tupping and lambing, haymaking and shearing, the red-letter days of Tan Hill and Muker Shows. Farming men and women are allowed to tell their own tales, saying much in a few words.
'We are ready for bad weather obviously, but we have to have everything safe,' Clive Owen of Ravenseat describes the onset of snow. 'First we have to know where our sheep are, and then be sure out sheep are where we want them to be.'
Their accounts of the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic - which threatened the very survival of the hefted flocks - are moving and shocking.
'It got to the middle of April and they were due to start lambing, and I just cried and cried,' recalls Jennie Harker of Pry House, forbidden at the time to visit her ewes. 'All I could think about was those poor sheep who were lambing, and no one there to give them any attention...' A fortnight later they all had to be slaughtered. The town-dweller will find 'The Hefted Farmer' a humbling read.
Ian Dewhirst, Yorkshire Ridings Magazine, June/July 2005

The book was featured on television in 'Dales Diary'.


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