While shepherds watched
For years Amanda Owen lived a quiet life with her husband and children in one of the remotest farms in the Dales. Then the TV cameras arrived. Now known to millions as the Yorkshire Shepherdess, she tells beyond how she became an unlikely poster girl for rural living.
A manda Owen has been up since 4.30am, she then drove two hours to an event to promote her latest book and while she doesn’t say it, had she sheared a couple of dozen sheep before heading out, no one would be surprised.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess isn’t one for relaxing. Even a quick glance at her Instagram page, which is full of her riding horses, herding sheep and generally running the Dales farm, she shares with her, husband, Clive, nine children and a menagerie of other animals, is exhausting.
In person, she’s no less of a whirlwind. After our chat, she’s heading straight back to her farm, Ravenseat. There’s a never ending list of jobs to do and there’s also the small matter of a TV crew who are due the following day to film the second instalment of Our Yorkshire Farm.
The series proved a massive hit for Channel 5 when it was first broadcast last year with viewers falling in love with the Owens and their back to basics way of life in a farmhouse where there is no mobile phone signal and where everyone is required to muck in. So popular was it that it is now back on our screens for a second series.
“I don’t want people to think we live in some rural utopia because we don’t,” says Amanda, who somehow manages to look effortlessly glamorous in a black and white spotted dress teamed with wellies. “The challenges we face might be different to other families, but they are still there.
“Sometimes people will ask me to do a talk and they’ll say, ‘Oh do bring your sheep dog if you like’. When I tell them he smells a bit and he’s not properly house trained they often change their mind, but he’s a working sheep dog not an accessory.
“Running a farm is hard work and I think what people liked about the TV series was that it showed exactly how we live. There wasn’t anything which was choreographed or airbrushed, it was just us doing what we do.”
Amanda has spoken often about her journey from Huddersfield to rural North Yorkshire and how she was inspired as a child by the novels of James Herriot. That dream was realised when she met Clive and together they have written their own chapter in the history of Ravenseat.
“I’ve always said we are just custodians of the farm. Sheep were there long before we arrived and they will be here long after we have gone. All we can do now is to try and leave it better than we found it.
“Part of that is diversification. It’s something you can’t avoid and while some farmers have moved into holiday accommodation or ice cream making, the telly, the books, that’s just our way of diversifying. Who knows how long it will last but I’ve always believed you should grab opportunities while you can.”
Part of Amanda’s aim with the books and the TV series is to debunk a few misconceptions about the realities of life in the middle of nowhere.
“People think it must be lonely, but it’s the complete opposite and not just because I’ve got nine children. You can live in the middle of a city surrounded by people and feel desperately lonely. I have never once felt alone here.
“There is camaraderie, there is community and it’s somewhere I have always felt at peace.”
The summer is Amanda’s favourite time of year at Ravenseat, not least because it means not having to get the children ready for school.
“June is when everything comes to life. Lambing is over and the sheep are turned back to the moor for the summer and it just feels like everything is there to be enjoyed.
“It’s funny, but when the summer holidays are almost over I always beat myself up that we haven’t taken the kids away as I know they’ll be asked when they get back to school. Then I have to remind myself that they will have been camping, swimming, riding. They will have done everything they might have done on holiday, they’ll have just done it here.”
With the Owens’ eldest daughter Raven applying to university to study bio-medicine, the family are out to embark on their next chapter as their children start to fly the nest. None, she says, are under any pressure to follow in their parents’ footsteps although Amanda hopes that one of them will eventually want to carry on the farm.
“Edith reminds me of how I was growing up. The other day we were out on the hills and the sun was setting and she turned to me and said, ‘Mummy, I am just like you’. I thought it was a really emotional heartfelt moment until she added, ‘Because I’ve got a great big bit of snot on my nose!
“Up here, there is always someone to bring your right back down to earth.”