TV star tells of life as shepherdess

Amanda Owen
Amanda Owen

A modern day James Herriot, Amanda Owen runs a two thousand acre hill farm in Swaledale in North Yorkshire, fifty miles from the nearest large town.

She is a full-time shepherdess tending a thousand sheep with her farmer husband Clive and seven children.

The 39-year-old’s life is dominated by the seasons, feeding, clipping, dipping, herding, rescuing and lambing her flock in one of the most remotely beautiful yet tough spots in the country.

Surprisingly, Amanda started life as a city girl from Huddersfield who was inspired after reading James Herriot to turn from Goth to shepherdess without any farming background whatsoever.

It wasn’t an easy road, and in her autobiography, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda charts the highs and lows of learning her craft as a shepherdess, while her friends led more conventional lives.

Amanda is also a working mother with seven children between the ages of eight months and 13 years, and amazingly has never taken maternity leave.

As soon as she returns from hospital Amanda simply straps her newborn onto her front in a waterproof onesie and heads back out to the hills to tend her sheep.

Each of her seven children has been brought up this way, outside in the fresh air all day without many of the trappings of modern parenthood, waking and sleeping with the rhythm of the farm.

In clipping season each of Amanda’s brood has fallen asleep to the sound of her shearing sheep and her babies always sleep through the night after so much fresh air in the day.

Amanda has also had some extraordinary births. Living as she does two hours from the nearest hospital, she’s given birth three times in a layby, once in an Army Barracks and once at home and she hasn’t ruled out having an eighth baby either.

The stories in her book abound with humour and life that bring the countryside alive.

There’s getting her nose piercings caught in the wool of a wriggling sheep when first starting out and the trials of training a sheepdog what to do when you haven’t a clue yourself.

And then there’s the time her husband Clive rescued Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury from the dales during a terrible storm as well as the time Amanda turned down a starring role in a film of Wuthering Heights because it clashed with an important sheep auction.

Amanda has been seen by millions on ITV’s The Dales, living and working at Ravenseat hill farm where as well as looking after her many animals and children, she sells cream teas to walkers who stop off on the Coast to Coast walk.

Her farm is halfway along the 192-mile journey, which 16,000 people walk every year bringing new faces and stories to the farm each day.

Amanda also runs James Herriot tours for fans of the books who visit her farm to see a way of life that hasn’t changed for decades.

She has also set up a traditional shepherd’s hut on the farm for couples wanting to experience a real country getaway.

The Yorkshire Shepherdess is her first book .

You can meet Amanda at Ingleborough Community Centre, Ingleton, on Bank Holiday Monday, May 26 at 2.30pm. She will be talking about and signing copies of her book, and taking questions from the audience.

Tickets priced £5 are available from the village Tourist Information Office, Seasons Bakery, Totsongs Etcetera or online through the Totsongs Etcetera Facebook Page.