Andrew Birkett, Herdwick breeder, Birk Howe, Little Langdale
It’s good to be part of a place that for a time is ours and to contribute while we can. Every generation must make the most of it and look after it the best they can.
Around 50,000 Herdwicks roam the Lake District hills, 95 percent within 14 miles of Coniston, each sticking to its own territory as ancient tradition dictates.
They helped create and maintain the spectacular uplands we see today, captivated poets, painters and people who see the unique breed as an indispensably lovable feature of the fells.
The distinctive tasting meat was sampled by the Queen at her 1953 coronation banquet and legendary children’s author Beatrix Potter was an expert breeder.
She set about buying farms and land to see her passion flourish. By the time of her death in 1943, there were 14 holdings and 4,000 acres – all left to the National Trust, along with her treasured Herdwick flocks.
It was a year into the Second World War that she approached Bob Birkett and asked him to take on High Yewdale in Coniston. With seven offspring helpers and a reputation as a good stockman, he was the one she wanted.
The Birketts have been synonymous with Lake District fell farming for at least six generations, longer than anyone can rightly remember. In Langdale, their presence has been prominent.
This landscape hasn’t been properly wild for thousands of years. Millions come to see it as it is now, established by hill farming and sheep. This is how most people want to see it, following its industrial past. We hope World Heritage Status will help protect it for future generations, as well as our way of life.
When Andrew took over National Trust owned Birk Howe in 2015, he was returning to his roots. Grandad and dad both farmed there and from being a little lad he figured this was where his future lay.
Read the rest of Andrew's story
Article by Karen Barden
Andrew Birkett is the sixth generation of his family to still be farming in the Lake District