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Bestselling book joy for Dales shepherdess Amanda
WORLDWIDE fame has followed shepherdess and mother-of-seven Amanda Owen to one of the north Pennine’s wildest and most isolated hill farms.
With the runaway success of her new book, Yorkshire Shepherdess, together with her appearances on ITV’s The Dales and her 7,380 followers on Twitter, Amanda has become a most unlikely and down-to-earth celebrity.
“I feel like I’ve shared one of the coldest, tiniest outposts with the whole of the world,” said the full-time shepherdess, whose best-selling book was written late into the night as she nursed her newborn baby in bed, balancing an iPad on her knee.
Amanda, her husband Clive and their seven children – aged nine months to 12 years - keep 900 sheep at their traditional 2,000-acre hill farm, Ravenseat, in Swaledale.
They also have a more modern and less exposed farm, Sandwath, at Kirkby Stephen, just 12 miles away ‘as the crow flies’.
“Our sheep run right over to Cumbria or Westmorland, or whatever you like to call it, over Nine Standards,” said Amanda. “There’s not a right lot between us. It’s just moorland, very Wuthering Heights; no trees, lots of heather.”
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Amanda fell in love with the idea of farming as a child, reading James Herriot’s books and watching All Creatures Great and Small. In her late teens she swapped urban life in Huddersfield for scraping a living as an agricultural worker in Eden, gradually learning the craft of shepherding wherever she could find jobs: Greystoke, and then Crosby Ravensworth, where she slept in a farmyard caravan until the farmer offered her a £60-a-month rented cottage.
Amanda has fond memories of those early days. “It was a teeny-weeny little cottage but it seemed to me absolutely perfect.”
Twenty years on, Amanda is amazed by her newfound recognition, with thousands of fans buying her book, following her tweets and TV appearances as far away as Tasmania, New York and Brazil (she has a satellite dish installed for her daily Twitter updates).
Meanwhile, she is still at home running the farm, getting the children up at 5.30am and finding time to serve cream teas to Coast to Coast walkers. “I feel like I’m living a bit of a double life.
Because I’m here, people are quite surprised. They say, we didn’t expect to find you here. I’ve written a book about how much I love the place so it wouldn’t make any sense to not be here doing it.”
Amanda was heavily pregnant when she took her fledgling book idea to the publishing houses on 'a scrappy piece of A4 paper' and can hardly believe it when she sees it in the window of WH Smith or Waterstones on her rare trips into town.
“Somebody sent me an email and said, your book has been reviewed in the Countryfile magazine and it’s got 5 stars, and I said, great and put the phone down and carried on chasing lambs.”
Amanda was in Playing down her success, she explained: “I’m just an ordinary person living in an extraordinarily beautiful place.
“People will say, how did you manage to do that; how did you have the time to write a book and bring up seven children, but you just make the time. If you have something that needs doing, by hook or by crook you do it.”
Amanda turns 40 this year, but has no desire for partying or holidays. “If we say to the kids, what do you want to do today, I can guarantee their answer will be, can we go to the moor, can we have a picnic?”
Her birthday coincides with the mule gimmer sale day at Hawes, and she’ll be just as happy to be at the auction mart.
“Let’s hope we have a good sale day,” she added.
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