Farming

Influence of farming on landscape

The landscape in Upper Eden, which is a mix of fell land, bleak moors, woodlands, meadows and pastures, is the result of successive generations of hill farmers working the land.

The valley bottoms are characterized by small fields enclosed by dry stone walls and hedges. Higher up the land has rougher grazing with larger walled fields and at the top is the moorland and rough grazing of open fells.

Most hill farms run a suckler beef herd together with a flock of hill breeding sheep but more recently there has been a move to sheep only farming.

The grazing of the hills and common land is by heafed flocks of sheep.

Sheep Breeds

The hill sheep breeds in Cumbria are hardy breeds of sheep mainly the Swaledale, Rough Fell and Herdwick breeds all suited to the rough terrain of the area. They can survive on the poor grazing and can withstand the harshest of weather.

The breeders of these sheep have been heavily involved in recent years in the marketing of their meat with emphasis on local, quality food.

Swaledale Sheep

This hardy breed is known for its good milking, mothering and foraging abilities and its ease of shepherding with a third of the national flock in Cumbria.

The Swaledale is well known for its famous tup sales which take place in mid-October.

By using tups of the Bluefaced Leicester breed on Swaledale ewes a crossbred lamb called a Mule is produced which is then mated with lowland breeds such as Suffolk and Texels to produce lambs for food production.

The sales of these mule lambs are impressive sights.

 Rough Fell Sheep

The Rough Fell sheep are farmed mainly on the Howgill and Orton fells and are the larger of the three breeds with a distinctly patchy face.

They were originally bred for their wool for the carpet industry.

Rough Fells can be crossed with Wensleydale or Teeswater tups to produce the Masham lamb.

Herdwick Sheep

Herdwick sheep are generally found in the Lake District but flocks can be found in other areas of Cumbria.

They have a distinctive grey fleece and their lambs are born largely black in colour but lighten as they age.

Beatrix Potter supported the breed and left a number of Herdwick farms to the National Trust, who own a number of fell farms with important ‘landlord’ flocks of Herdwick sheep.