AN opportunity has arisen for someone to take on the long-term Farm Business Tenancy of two renowned upland sheep farms, Hethpool and Fleehope.

Owned by College Valley Estates, the farms, marching with the Scottish Border, are located in College Valley, in 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 November 11, 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, which has set the deadline for applications of interest at July 2. This will be followed by an invitation to successful prospective applicants to an open day in the College Valley on July 16, with the tender submission closing date of August 31.

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 NCC ewes and 265 hoggs, and 450 Blackface ewes and 145 hoggs. The farms’ upland sheep regime is also suitable for some summer-only cattle grazing.

Outgoing tenant Mr Elliot was born in the Cheviots and has farmed there with his wife for almost four decades. He is now retiring after a notable career as a producer of some of the UK’s leading NCC and Blackface sheep.

Bill and Fanny took over the tenancies of Fleehope and Hethpool in 1999, and their partnership has since run and managed the farm, with additional support brought in on an ad-hoc basis during the key times of the year.

Each year, their goal has been to sell every ewe lamb privately direct from Hethpool and Fleehope. Most wether lambs are sold for slaughter, half of them direct off grass, at 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.

Throughout his tenancy, Bill’s ultimate aim was to top the Cheviot and 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 was 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.