Page 3 Profile: Amanda Owen, shepherd


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The lonely shepherdess?

Well, Amanda Owen runs a 2,000-acre sheep farm in the Yorkshire Dales - an area so remote, it has been deserted by all the local inhabitants except her own family. But she’s hardly lonely. Owen, 39 lives on the farm with her husband Clive, their seven children, and a menagerie of 1,000 sheep, eight horses, cows, pigs, chickens and dogs.

And a partridge in a pear tree?

When she married, Owen didn’t expect to have a big family. “If I’d told Clive we were having seven children he’d have run a mile,” she said. “But it seems right, filling this place with people and chatter, like it was centuries ago. Because of the life we lead, the children just fit in: One more never makes any difference.”

Does she come from a family of farmers?

Far from it. She grew in a built-up area of Huddersfield with her engineer father and model mother. “As a child I watched the James Herriot programmes and I was inspired,” Owen said. “I knew it was what I wanted to do, but being a shepherdess or a farmer weren’t options that came up at comprehensive.” However, that didn’t deter her: “I was determined, and cycled round farms in the area, offering to work for nothing.” Once she had learned the ropes, she became a freelance farm labourer.

What did that involve?

Dipping and clipping sheep, milking cows and repairing walls. She met her husband when was sent to borrow ram from his farm, where they live now.  Their home is 50 miles from the nearest hospital and giving birth on the roadside has become something of a habit now. All but two of the children were born en route to the hospital.

Blimey! How does she manage to look after her huge brood?

The Owens share the work, which includes lambing, feeding the sheep and maintaining the farm.  “Life is extremely busy, and it is just a case of fitting everything in,” she has said. However, she enjoys the fact that she doesn’t feel like she must choose between her job and her family: “I have it both ways,” she said. ‘You also get a lot of head space and time to think.’