College Valley Estate Offers Long-Term Tenancy to Qualified Committed Hill Sheep Farmer
This week sees the launch of what is a unique opportunity for someone to take on the long-term Farm Business Tenancy [FBT] of two renowned upland sheep farms, Hethpool and Fleehope, in North Northumberland’s College Valley.
Owned by College Valley Estates, the farms, marching with the Scottish Border, are located in College Valley, one of the most iconic valleys of the Northern Cheviot Hills. 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 which rises from 420ft at the farm, with the hill reaching 1125ft above sea level and Fleehope which reaches 1970ft have been farmed by highly respected sheep breeders Bill and Fanny Elliot for the last 21 years. They are being let on an initial FBT term of 10 years, with the agreement commencing on 11th November 2020. Included in the FBT are the farm buildings, sheep pens and a four-bedroom house.
The FBT tendering process is being handled by Brockthorpe Consultancy, who will send an initial pre-qualification questionnaire, with the deadline for applications of interest being 2nd July. This will be followed by an invitation to successful prospective applicants to an open day in the College Valley on July 16th, with the tender submission closing date of 31st August 2019.
Hethpool is home to the renowned Hethpool North Country Cheviot (Lairg type) flock, and Fleehope is home to the Fleehope Scottish Blackface (Lanark type) flock. 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.
Letting Agent Louis Fell, of Brockthorpe Consultancy, says: “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.
Owned by College Valley Estates Ltd for over 60 years, College Valley is unique. So, in addition to possessing upland farming skills, and sensitivity to the wider landscape and its ecology, 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, adds: “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. So in addition to their farming skills, managing, enhancing and having empathy with the surrounding natural environment and being community orientated will also be a key factor in finding the right Tenant.”
Bill Elliot, the outgoing tenant, was born in the Cheviots and has farmed here with his wife for almost 4 decades. He is now retiring after a notable career as a producer of some of the UK’s leading North Country Cheviot and Blackface Sheep.
He moved to College Valley when he was six months old and was himself farm manager of the Estate. Bill took over the tenancies of Fleehope and Hethpool in 1999 with his wife Fanny. Their partnership has run and managed the farm, with additional support brought in on an ad-hoc basis during the key times of the year, such as lambing, shearing and scanning.
Each year, their goal is to sell every ewe lamb privately direct from Hethpool and Fleehope. Most wether lambs are sold for slaughter, half of them direct off grass, 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.
Bill has farmed traditionally, with his attention to detail concentrating on the breeding side and improving productivity, conformation, carcass weight and breed type. The improvements in productivity are he believes a direct result of mineral supplementation.
“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%.
Throughout his tenancy, Bill’s ultimate aim has been to top the Cheviot & Blackface Draft ewe sales in the same year, Lockerbie Auction Mart for the Cheviots and Hexham for the Blackfaces. A tall order, and he has topped both, although not in the same year. He has, however, managed first and second in the same year. His other long-term aim has been to produce improved conformation and quality of the draft Ewes.
For their successor, 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.”
Those seeking more information about taking on the tenancy for Hethpool and Fleehope MUST only contact Brockthorpe Consultancy directly. Any tender will need to include a robust business plan that demonstrates affordability and access to sufficient capital; a CV including details of competence and experience; and 2 or 3 references. The Directors may wish to visit applicants’ current place of work or property to help identify the suitable tenant.