Country diary: the last farm in Britain to be worked by horses

Sillywrea Farm, Northumberland: Two majestic horses are working a field – in 1900 there were a million working our farms

A large grey cat squats in the cobbled yard. Around him is a range of stone-built barns. Protruding from one is a blue and red painted cart. There’s no sign of mechanisation, just wisps of hay lying across the cobbles. This is Sillywrea, high above the Tyne Valley, and the last farm in Britain to be worked by horses.

I walk along a track where the mud is studded with hoof prints. Either side, curlews bubble over the fields. Ahead, through a gap in a hawthorn hedge, I spot two horses powering up the slope. Behind them, the figure of a man, bent to the plough. Wheeling above is a flock of white gulls like one of Rowland Hilder’s prewar paintings of British landscapes. The team works up and down the slope, creating corduroy lines of turned soil, curved and smooth on one side where metal has sliced through the earth.

Continue reading…