Young Peak District sheep farmers expand career horizons with land management roles from water company

Two young Peak District sheep farmers have been given a helping hand by a regional water company which is working to protect the landscape for future generations.

By Ed Dingwall
Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 2:15 pm

United Utilities has let large parcels of land to Sam Bolton, 29, and Alistair Bland, 24, in an effort to encourage new young entrants to the agricultural land sector.

The company’s estates manager Ross Evans said: “Around 70 per cent of our tenanted land is within a Government environmental scheme and these tenancies are making an important contribution to this.

“On these particular land holdings, our tenants are involved in tackling important climate change measures through their active land management.”

Goyt Valley farmer Sam Bolton with Roy and Rascal and part of his flock.

Sam, from Macclesfield, has been a United Utilities tenant for five years and has recently taken on 1,000 hectares in the Goyt Valley .

The land has not been grazed for 20 years and Sam’s flock of 1,200 Mule and Swaledale sheep – and border collies Roy and Rascal – should improve habitat management and reduce the risk of wildfire.

Sam said: “I like traditional sheep farming. It’s a big commitment, there are no short cuts with shepherding.

“You’re out there in all weathers and there’s always something to do.”

Alistair Bland, the new manager of a farm near Crowden.

Alistair, the son of one of the water firm’s tenant farmers, has recently been made manager of a 4,500 acre hill farm at Crowden where he will be primarily breeding Swaledale draft ewes and mule ewe lambs.

In 2019, Alistair took charge of 70 acres of United Utilities land where he keeps 250 Cheviot Mule and North of England Mule ewes, and he feels ready to work on a bigger scale.

He said: “I enjoy working outside and could never see myself working in an office.

“After A-levels I did a degree in agriculture with animal science at Harper Adams University then spent six months working on beef and sheep farms in New Zealand after graduating.”

He added: “Sheep farming can be a difficult industry to get into but I’ve been lucky to have received a lot of support from family and friends.”.

Active habitat management and the reintroduction of grazing on both sites are expected to encourage breeding birds and rare species back to the area such as curlews, redshanks and oystercatchers.

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