A year down on the farm

John feeding the sheep.
John feeding the sheep.
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FROM the wild winter weather to the highs of the harvest, a photographer spent a year documenting life on a north Northumberland farm.

Belford’s Brian Rogers followed the farming calendar on West Hall Farm in the village in 2010, and is now displaying some of the photos in an exhibition, A Year in the Life of a Northumberland Farm.

Ploughing.

Ploughing.

And some of the images are also going to the Berwick Records Office to preserve them for posterity.

The idea came about when Brian realised people didn’t necessarily see what was right on their doorstep.

He said: “The farm is in the village of Belford, and it’s quite a part of the village really. A number of public footpaths go through the farm and a lot of people walk through the farm, but don’t realise what’s going on,

“Having walked through quite a bit, I thought it was an interesting farm with a bit of history right in the heart of the village.

Photos from Brian Rogers' exhibition.

Photos from Brian Rogers' exhibition.

“I wanted to photograph the farming year for the future, as not a lot of people are documenting what’s happening now.”

And the experience of shadowing farmer John Riddell really opened Brian’s eyes to the true nature of life on a farm,

“I sat down with John and worked out what he did in a year and I was quite surprised. I followed that as much as I could and was in touch with him quite regularly.”

He ended up spending around 40 days out of the year up on the farm following the highs and the lows.

“The deep snow posed real problems, He lambs early so the lambs couldn’t go out and had to be kept in all the time. It started getting very busy and well-populated with lambs inside,” Brian said.

“When the thaw eventually came it was great that the lambs could get out. The cattle were in over winter as well and they were glad to get out – you could see it in the way they reacted.

“It’s a mixed farm so he has got crops as well as animals. The winter was quite severe but they also had a good harvest because the summer came at the right time.”

Following the farm for a year meant that Brian saw the full cycle of life, describing the death of animals as ‘traumatic’.

And the experience also highlighted what it is like for the farmer himself.

“I saw just how hard the farmers are working, it seems to be constant. There’s always something that needs attention.

“The snow before Christmas caved in the roof of the lambing shed so they had to get that quickly repaired before the cycle started again.

“Also John looks after the animals very well and he cares about them. He doesn’t have that many so he knows the animals.

“I went with him to Acklington mart to sell some of the sheep. I got a feeling that he was sad to see them going. He has to sell them to get the money, but there’s a sentiment there.”

Brian said that he hopes that he has managed to capture something of the farming year in his photographs.

The exhibition runs from Saturday, July 9 to Friday, July 29 in the Courtyard Gallery at the Belford Craft Gallery, which is open from 10am to 12.30pm, and 2pm to 5pm Tuesday to Friday, and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm. For more details call 01668 213888.