Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Yorkshire Shepherdess

Amanda Owen always wanted to work with animals. A townie from Huddersfield, she tells her story of how she met her husband, Clive, and moved into Ravenseat, a hill farm in the Yorkshire Dales.

Once you've accidentally got your nose caught up in wool that is still attached to a sheep, you know you've made a mistake.

The subtitle of this book is misleading. I still enjoyed reading about sheep farming in a remote environment, but she really didn't leave a city life to become a farmer. She lived in a Yorkshire town and chose to go into farming straight from school. There are none of the anecdotes of someone trying to start something unfamiliar that I had expected. Yes, she was considered a townie at first, but she works her way up like anyone else. Which, is still interesting just not what I was sold.

The book is full of anecdotes about farming, the realities of living far from civilisation and a little history about the Yorkshire Dales. Her writing is very matter of fact and quick to get to the point, meaning some of the anecdotes felt a bit short and the overall effect was choppy. There were things I would have liked to carry on reading about but suddenly she was onto another topic.

Probably the most powerful bit for me was her account of the foot and mouth crisis. She was pregnant with her first child at the time and their sheep were being kept elsewhere for winter. I know we produce sheep for meat but it was such a wasteful and tragic loss, and many farmers didn't go on.

We watched as the disease moved inexorably onwards and people's lives were destroyed along with their sheep.

I get the feeling Amanda makes the assumption that anyone reading this book has watched The Dales. I haven't and I found it a bit irritating that she broke the past narrative by mentioning things in the present. No I don't know about what Ravenseat looks like now so describing something that way is unhelpful.

She does have seven children and she does include the birth of each one in the book. I suppose she doesn’t want them to feel left out, but there’s a limit to how many child birth stories I can read. She’s a bit unusual in that she doesn’t have the usual contractions, but at times she comes across a bit smug about it.

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Book Source: Purchased

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