Sited in the dramatic rolling landscape of the Forest of Bowland, lies Barkin Gate Farm which has been farmed by Malcolm’ s family since the 1960s. The farm is 208 acres, with an extra 52 acres rented which is predominantly rough grazing, a small area of moorland, flower rich hay meadows and a SSSI woodland which runs down to the river. The farm ranges in height from 300 feet by the River Roeburn to 800 feet up on the moor.
Barkin Gate is a mixed livestock farm with around 230 breeding ewes, mainly Dalesbred and Lonks, a few Mashams and a small herd of suckler cows mostly Belgium Blue crosses with a few Belted Galloway being brought onto the farm to help manage the grass sward on the rough grazing land.
Some management on the farm has been supported through agri-environment schemes such as Countryside Stewardship and now Higher Level Stewardship since 1996, enabling traditional practices such as rush cutting for bedding, which is both timely and costly, to continue. The Belted Galloways are doing a fantastic job of grazing this marginal land, they retain good condition and create the perfect environment for wading birds, such as lapwing, to breed successfully. However at market, the average price per head has decreased by £200 compared to last year and the Woodhouse’s are seriously worried about their farming future:
“Policymakers have to help suckler herds— like me, many farmers are thinking if we get another low price this year, our cattle will have to go. With unpredictable weather conditions and costs of bales rising we are being pushed into keeping sheep more than cattle.”
The landscape around Roeburndale relies on traditional farming systems which really haven’t changed over time.
For Malcolm this way of farming is: “All I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t be here without our agri-environment scheme payments, but in an ideal world I want to be able to move away from subsidies and receive a better price for the quality product I produce. The 40-50 acre farms have gone, without better support the 200 acre farms will be the next to go. To ensure the next generation stay in farming we must make farming a viable option for them.”
Photo credits: Malcolm and Janet Woodhouse with their belted Galloways and Maisie (Gavin Thomas – RSPB), Lapwing (Chris Gomersall – RSPB images), Bowland Landscape (Deborah Deveney – RSPB).