Hebden Township Historical Data

Bryan White: 1965.

The following is an article from the June 1965 edition of the Dalesman magazine, about the working life of Hebden Farmer Bryan (misspelt 'Brian' in the article) White, who farmed at High Garnshaw from the late 50's until his death in 1988. It provides an interesting insight into the daily life of a Dales hill farmer at that period. Probably little had changed in the last hundred years, except for the power of the horse being replaced by mechanised horse power and the availability of electricity.

Bryan White of High Garnshaw
Bryan White milking at High Garnshaw

Bryan's son David and his grandson Ben still farm at High Garnshaw.

A Thousand Feet Up at High Garnshaw

Brian White describes his Upper Wharfedale farm

High Garnshaw Farm is situated on the 1,000 feet contour overlooking Hebden Gill, a beauty-spot near Grassington in Wharfedale. It has 250 acres of land, of which half is rough pasture.

Millstone grit is the local stone and has been used to build both the dry-stone walls and the buildings on the farm. It forms impressive but dangerous crags on the opposite side of the valley and on a dull or misty Pennine day the outlook can be a grey one.

The meadowland attached to the farm extends down to the comparative shelter of the valley bottom and the rough pasture stretches to Bolton Gill, away to the north-east on the fringe of Grassington Moor.

A hundred years ago the Gill was the heart of the thriving Hebden lead mines and many of the old mine buildings still remain, although in a ruinous state. Not far to the north is the rounded shape of Great Whernside, one of Yorkshire's highest peaks.

The farmhouse is traditional and almost spartan, but is cosy inside. It looks on one of the most beautiful stretches of Wharfe-dale, almost as far as Bolton Abbey. Sun-rise can be a heart-warming spectacle. An ancient fir tree, its branches stunted into weird shapes by the wind, grows in the farmyard.


I have 44 Friesian and Galloway cows and this year, for the first time, over 200 Dalesbred and Swaledale lambs. I also keep a small number of pigs and hens for my own use.

High Garnshaw is the first farm of my own and 1 have now been here for six years. I get up at 6 a.m. every morning, wet or fine, and continue working until darkness. In mid-summer this means a 16-hour day.

There is a definite cycle of work through-out the year. April is one of the busiest months with the lambing season. A weak lamb can bring about a great deal of extra work.

This month I am catching up on gap-walling. Usually I have about half a dozen gaps to attend to each year. It is said that a dry-stone wall lasts on the average for about a century. The two basic principles are to make a good foundation and use plenty of "throughs".

Next month I will be clipping the sheep, and August brings haytime. The farm was very much run down when I came here and the meadows had almost deteriorated into pastures. Gradually I have brought them up to standard again. I am thankful that every hay crop for the past six years has been a good one. Hay in the barn is as good as money in the bank. Last winter was the first time I have bought any hay.

In September I dip the sheep, and gather bracken and rushes from the outlying pastures for bedding. Then, in no time at all, down come the first falls of snow.

Winter can be rough up here. Two or three years ago I did not bring the sheep in close enough to the farmhouse and several of them got pneumonia and died. It can be a long and tiring job digging them out of drifts when the really heavy snowfalls come.

Sometimes the house gets buried in snow up to the top of the ground-floor windows. Then we have to dig ourselves out in order to attend to the animals. Our two children are Susan, who is eleven, and David, aged eight. The snow is no handicap to them. Even in the depth of winter they never miss getting to and from Hebden village school, almost two miles away. We make sure that we have a good stock of food in when winter comes.

Sketch drawing used in the article

Heavy rain also brings its troubles. Water pours from the lane alongside the house straight into the kitchen. Another worry is an unguarded mine shaft in Bolton Gill. It is around 250 feet deep and a potential danger to sheep and sheep dogs.

Taking all in all I enjoy life at High Garnshaw. I have no television and this means that summer evenings are not wasted. There is always plenty of work waiting to be done and living on a hill farm presents a constant challenge.