DUMFRIES HOUSE is already the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire – but it has just taken on a new recruit, in the shape of eight-month-old Border Collie Gel.

The sheepdog joined the Home Farm team earlier this year and is now undertaking on-the-job training with Dumfries House shepherdess Charlotte Darwent. The 25-year-old, who is originally from Knutsford in Cheshire, moved to Cumnock four years ago take up employment on the estate’s commercial working farm alongside her three other dogs – Dot, Maggie and Flash.

Charlotte explained: “Whilst I don’t come from a farming background, I’ve always been really interested in it. Growing up, I used to help local farmers during lambing season as I wanted to gain as much experience as possible.

“My day-to-day job at Home Farm varies depending on the time of year but I am very busy during lambing season, which is due to start in April. Gel is in training at the moment but I’m hoping she will be ready to help me bring the sheep in during lambing season alongside my three other dogs.”

Home Farm, where Gel is based, is a working farm that sits adjacent to Valentin’s Education Farm on Dumfries House estate. The education farm hosts hundreds of school pupils from Ayrshire and beyond each month, allowing them to observe and engage with animals, while learning about the provenance of food and the importance of a balanced diet.

The Prince’s Foundation, headquartered at Dumfries House, is now the second-largest employer in East Ayrshire with more than 200 full-time and part-time staff across the house, estate and education and training programmes.

School visits to Valentin’s Education Farm can be arranged by emailing education@dumfries-house.org.uk