For the past 21 years, husband and wife Bill and Fanny Elliot have farmed two remote sheep farms in the Cheviots.
They are retiring after a notable career as producers of some of the UK’s leading North Country Cheviot and Blackface sheep.
It creates a unique opportunity for someone to take on the long-term farm business tenancy (FBC) of Hethpool and Fleehope, owned by College Valley Estate.
Bill and Fanny have this advice: “Enjoy what you are doing, take pride in your work, and everything else will follow. This is a very special place, we have tremendous neighbours, and we have shared a real community spirit. And of course, most importantly, please look after my sheep!”
Each year, their goal has been to sell every ewe lamb privately, with average weights of between 18.5 and 19.5 kilos. Their Cheviot tups are sold at Lockerbie, Lairg and Dingwall, and the Blackface tups at Hexham.
They have farmed traditionally, with attention to detail concentrating on the breeding side and improving productivity, conformation, carcass weight and breed type. The improvements in productivity are, Bill believes, a direct result of mineral supplementation.
He said: “This really is the only thing that I have changed since we took over the tenancy, and in getting the minerals right, scanning percentages have risen from 140 to 160% for the Cheviots and the Blackfaces from 150 to 170%.”
The tenancy will be awarded to the farmer who has a track record of hill sheep farming husbandry skills, who can demonstrate respect, management and enhancement for the natural environment, and who will give a long-term commitment to the farm and the local community.
Covering a total of 2300 acres, Hethpool rises from 420ft at the farm, with the hill reaching 1,125ft above sea level, while Fleehope reaches 1,970ft. They are being let on an initial FBT term of 10 years, with the agreement starting on November 11, 2020. Included in the tenancy are the farm buildings, sheep pens and a four-bedroom house.
The tendering process is being handled by Brockthorpe Consultancy, which will send an initial pre-qualification questionnaire, with the deadline for applications of interest being July 2. This will be followed by an invitation to successful prospective applicants to an open day in the College Valley on July 16 , with the tender submission closing date of August 31.
The take over at valuation will be for 885 North Country Cheviot ewes and 265 hoggs, and 450 Scottish Blackface ewes and 145 hoggs. The farms’ upland sheep regime is also suitable for some summer-only cattle grazing.
Louis Fell, of Brockthorpe Consultancy, said: “The Trustees of the Estate are looking for a highly competent, hard-working sheep farmer who can show relevant background and history. These personal attributes are vital, along with sufficient capital for the ingoing sheep valuation.
College Valley is unique so the successful tenant will be expected to have a clear business plan for the farm and be able to demonstrate available capital to take it over.
John Baker-Cresswell, director of College Valley Estates, added: “This valley is a very special place for both residents and visitors and these two farms are part of the intrinsic character of the Cheviots, and the rural community that lives in the College Valley.
“We see this FBT as providing an exciting and long-term opportunity for a dedicated upland farmer to contribute to, and maintain, this unique part of the area’s heritage.”
For more information about taking on the tenancy, contact Brockthorpe Consultancy.