Celebrating Christmas with the Yorkshire Shepherdess
WHAT’s Christmas like for the Yorkshire Shepherdess? With a best-selling book, a calendar and 18,000 Twitter followers, Amanda Owen’s star is shining brightly. She explains what her family’s festive traditions are and why – with eight children – she can’t stand ‘smug’ mums.
WHEN a cheerful, girlish voice answered the phone I presumed it was one of her daughters but no, it was Amanda, just in from tending to her flock of 1,000 sheep on a biting December afternoon and so cold that she couldn’t feel her hands.
Living on at remote 2,000 acre farm at Ravenseat in Swaledale, North Yorkshire, her world is ruled by the seasons and the demands of her sheep, cows, horses, dogs, pigs, chickens as well as her husband, Clive, and their eight free-range children.
“For us on Christmas Day we carry on as usual. It might make me sound like a party pooper but it’s all about doing our thing. Being with the family and looking after the animals. I take great comfort that things carry on as normal. That’s what we do. And I’ve never had any complaints from the children because they know how important what we do is,” she said.
One of the family’s special traditions is to visit their stable at midnight on Christmas Eve to see if the horses are kneeling for the arrival of a ‘new visitor’ – but they are usually found fast asleep snoring.
Another is a family outing to pick their turkey – not from the supermarket but from an auction where it’s bought plucked and oven-ready. “We all go and the children get really excited about which one they are going to choose – they go through them, average size, average size, average size until they find a huge 30lbs one that everyone else has looked at and thought “What sort of idiot would buy that?”
Amanda cooks Christmas dinner – eaten at tea time – but she said working with children and animals, things rarely go to plan.
“Last year a wheel fell off the quad bike and one year we didn’t have any water but we managed somehow,” she laughed.
“We don’t have a commercial Christmas – the children won’t be getting anything they don’t need.
“They’ve all written their notes to Father Christmas but I tend to find they ask for practical things, which I think is because they come from a big family. One daughter has asked for a purple yoyo, a son has asked for a can of WD-40 and another for books.My teenage daughter has asked that she doesn’t get any new clothes for Christmas because we wear the same ones here – I’m in green waterproofs for six months of the year and things that are kept for best just don’t get worn. We have a good time on Christmas Day but it’s about the simple things.”
Amanda’s story has been well documented – a Huddersfield-born daughter of a model, turned Yorkshire shepherdess after reading James Herriot novels as a girl.
After being sent to a remote farm and falling in love with its farmer, she has gone on to appear on ITV’s The Dales after meeting television presenter Julia Bradbury, who got lost on her land in the rain while filming Coast to Coast.
Since then she’s appeared on tv with Ben Fogle, Ade Edmonson, is writing her second memoir and the dramatic rights to her first best-seller have been optioned by a TV company. And she tends to her eight offspring while updating her Twitter feed with stunning photos and offering cream teas consisting of with freshly baked scones to passing ramblers.
“There’s a lot going on,” she admitted. “But it’s good not to have all your eggs in one basket. I wake up every day and I think to myself this needs doing and that needs doing – and I do it.”
She’s been described as a superwoman for managing to keep so many plates spinning but Amanda, 41, insisted she is not.
“I can’t stand smug mums. They get all competitive – “when did your child walk?” You do not need that. I don’t have to compete with that. “I don’t iron anything and I don’t bother with fabric conditioner – I’ve got two stakes inside which I can hang two loads of washing on and they dry overnight.”
Just as we say our goodbyes over her feint landline she remembers it’s trumpet practice tonight for one of her brood – and the Yorkshire Shepherdess heads out into the cold once again.
The Yorkshire Shepherdess 2016 calendar is available for £8.99 at www.graffeg.com
Follow Amanda Owen on Twitter @AmandaOwen8
The Yorkshire Shepherdess is published by Panmacmillan