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Addicted to Sheep on - The Best Documentaries... Instantly On Demand

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In the uplands of the North Eastern England, Tom and Kay Hutchinson set out on a near impossible task: to breed the perfect Swaledale Sheep. They toil through sun, hail, sleet and snow to rear their flock. Life on the fells is by turns idyllic and tough. Surrounded by an ever-changing and stunning landscape, the family battle against the weather, financial challenges and the bizarre propensity of sheep to suddenly drop dead.

As Tom Hutchinson combs and clips one of his prize tups he points out its flaws. His head is too wide, his wool too thin, his colouring just off the ideal. Tom is disappointed, but he can’t kick the habit. “We were just saying in the pub how Swaledale Sheep are one of the worst addictions known to man. You just keep coming back, you keep having a go, and you keep getting a right kick in the nuts”, he laughs.

Up in the Northern Pennines, the Hutchinson family are carving out their own slice of rural heaven. Unable to compete with the big farms they devote their efforts to breeding the perfect sheep, quality over quantity. It is far from easy. Tom and Kay are happy though. “It was always an ambition to get a gnarly old farmer’s wife", he jokes. “You’ve got that!”, Kay replies. Their young children, Jack, Esme and Hetty love life on the farm. Although Hetty doesn’t like the mess the cows leave behind. “I think they should pick it up themselves, not us”, she says, disgruntled.

But whilst the family are largely comfortable and content, their life is not without its trials and tribulations. Tom was being forced to take a third of his flock off the fell, to prevent over-grazing. “They came with very little proof, and we just had to take their word for it”, he explains. To make ends meet Tom also has to clip sheep; backbreaking work he promised never to do. But the hardest challenge is the sheep themselves. “Most sheep farmers will tell you that the main ambition of a sheep, virtually from day one, is to die as soon as possible. The quicker it does it, the happier it seems to be.”

Beautifully observed, this heartwarming and funny doc provides an intimate insight into the past, present, and future of a way of life far removed from the high-tech hustle and bustle of modern society.


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