2020 – a year to remember: Lifting the spirits

In a difficult year, there were still farming stories to warm the heart and lift the spirits. We look a some of the events and the farmers that made us smile.

See also: Photos: Farmer’s river rescue saves Holstein heifer

Marriage proposals

There have been some memorable marriage proposals this year, with a romantically rural twist.

Yorkshire farmer Chris Fairbank went the extra furlong with a horse-themed proposal in March. He used a horse and its rug to pop the big question to Ashleigh Keady, who works in the industry as a yard manager and massage therapist.

Horse-themed proposal

© Chris Fairbank

In May, Ben Turner staged an elaborate proposal by letting his girlfriend, Charlotte Brunt, discover the engagement ring with a metal detector, after a day spent silaging in Somerset.

“We were on the top of the hill and the metal detector on the forage harvester went off,” Ms Brunt said.

Mark Howard-Smith from West Sussex proposed to his partner, Sarah Coles-Parry, using 60 large white bales and a drone. He arranged the bales and popped the question by flying the drone over the message and handing her the controller and screen, as he went down on one knee.

“It took a while for it to sink in; there was a look of shock on her face and then she was over the moon,” he said.

Meanwhile, farmer Bryn Lewis got creative with a can of dye and sprayed the words “Marry me” on an in-lamb ewe and tricked his partner Sarah Powell into the sheep shed by asking for help lambing.

The couple first met when Ms Powell started lambing work on the farm in Llanbadarn Fynydd, near Llandrindod Wells, Powys, eight years ago.

Farming on the telly

A plethora of TV programmes on farming and countryside issues have helped to keep the public entertained during the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions tuned in to watch Our Yorkshire Farm, which featured the lives of the Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, her husband Clive, and their nine children – aged four to 18 years – on a remote hill farm in the Yorkshire Dales.

The fly-on-the-wall documentary, now in its third season, was filmed at the Owen family’s 809ha tenanted farm, in Upper Swaledale, North Yorkshire. The fourth episode, aired on Channel 5 in August, attracted 2.23m viewers, topping the ratings during the 9pm primetime slot.

Channel 4 viewers were given a unique look into life on Jimmy Doherty’s Suffolk farm during the lockdown in the spring.

The four-part series, Spring at Jimmy’s Farm, gave families cooped up indoors the chance to see how his small team coped with running an animal park without any visitors.

A follow-up series, Autumn at Jimmy’s Farm, helped lift the spirits of viewers during the second lockdown, including the arrival of up to 9,000 free-range turkeys.

And Barnsley farmers Robert and David Nicholson, of Cannon Hall Farm, highlighted the challenges of lambing during lockdown for Channel 5 TV show Springtime on the Farm.

Happy 100th birthday

John Wrench on his 100th birthday

© Anne Wrench

Who could not have felt a rush of admiration for John Wrench who celebrated his 100th year, and was still involved in running the family farm.

John, from North Wales, began running Blackbrook dairy farm in 1941 at the tender age of 20. Not only did he innovate in grassland farming, winning awards for his work in silage, he was also awarded an MBE in 1983 for services to agriculture.

Modest and grateful for his life in farming he said: “I’ve got a wonderful family that have put up with my silly ideas, some which were right and some which were wrong.

“I feel I’m a very fortunate old man. I still love going around the farm and having a look.”

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Join us for a week-long extravaganza to celebrate the farming heroes and achievements of 2020 and announce the winners of the Farmers Weekly Awards. Countryfile presenter Adam Henson will host five nights of entertainment in 20-minute programmes filmed all over the country. He'll be joined by a host of farming celebrities and feature a special appearance by HRH Prince Charles.
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