FARMING friends were reunited for the first time in nearly 18 months as hundreds headed to Carlisle’s Borderway Mart for one of the country’s most premier sheep sales.
With lockdown restrictions fully lifted, farmers from across the UK turned out in force for the annual Pedigree Beltex Sheep show and sale – and it turned into a great social occasion as they met up with people they hadn’t been allowed to see since before the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020.
Last year’s Beltex sale at Carlisle did go ahead but only one person for each business was allowed to attend, and the event was more low-key than usual.
The 2021 sale, however, was one to savour as hundreds of farming folk enjoyed catching up with friends.
It was a memorable family occasion for the Barclays of Ayrshire, Scotland, with three generations delighted to be back mingling among the show pens and sale rings.
John Barclay was joined by father Robert, wife Heather and twin sons Cameron and Finlay, and the family turned the three-day event into a big occasion as they stayed in Cumbria for the duration.
John said: “We have been coming here since 1996 and it’s been a family affair ever since, and my dad always loves to come so it killed him not being allowed last year. The boys love coming too and it would have been World War III if they weren’t allowed to join us this time!
“It was very different last year because this sale is the one where you see people you haven’t seen in a year or two, especially our Irish and Welsh friends.
“We’re glad things are getting back to normal and it’s been good to catch up with everybody. It’s been such a good event.”
Clark Stewart and his son Allan, of Kininmonth, also made the journey south of the border, and were similarly delighted to catch up with friends old and new.
Clark said: “It’s been great to get out and about again, and it’s good to be back among people without having to wear face masks. I’m only here to support my son, but I’m really glad I came as it’s been a great occasion.”
The lifting of restrictions was a key milestone for mart owners Harrison & Hetherington, which has been operating throughout lockdown at a reduced capacity and in a Covid-safe manner.
And the return of families back to the event was hailed as a great moment by H&H senior auctioneer Grant Anderson.
He said: “We held this sale last year and, while it was a success in terms of sales and some farmers were able to get together, there wasn’t that excellent atmosphere you usually get, like we have here today.
“It’s great to welcome everybody back, especially the young children who have been able to sell their own stock once again. These children are the future of agriculture so it’s been great to get them back amongst it.
“This event is the highlight of the Beltex breeding season and it’s the premier sale that everybody wants to come to, so to be able to bring their families again has been massive for everybody involved.”
The Pedigree Beltex sale and show also marked a return to the office since March 2020 for some staff at H&H Insurance Brokers, who were kept busy throughout the event by visiting farmers wanting to find out more about what the business could provide for them.
Team members were stationed at the insurance company’s refurbished office after months of working remotely, and were on hand to advise on all things relating to agricultural insurance, from farm liability, forestry and arboricultural requirements.
Account Executive Natalie Carr said: “It’s nice to be back speaking to customers face to face rather than over the phone, and it’s been lovely to see everybody again.
“We make sure we get the right cover for the type of farming our customers specialise in. Every farm is different so we tailor our packages depending on what the customer needs, and it’s been nice to have those chats at the farmers’ own leisure today.”
Natalie’s colleague Dylan Jones, also an Account Executive, said: “Our team has an in-depth understanding of all agricultural insurance needs, and we work to make sure the customer gets the best possible cover for what they need.”
Farmers from across the UK attended the event, with many travelling from Scotland, Ireland and Wales to buy or sell at Carlisle.
There were more than 1,400 lots sold at the Beltex sale. The Beltex Beauties Sale of Females event will be held at Borderway Mart, Carlisle, on Friday, August 27.