Hazel Brow is typical of most farms in Swaledale where lead mining was once a thriving industry. Families would farm a small area of land, keeping a few sheep, cows and a pig. Animals were tended by women folk and children and were housed close to dwellings or in field barns. This farming system has left us with the unique landscape we have today.
Farmers have looked after the countryside of Swaledale for centuries & are continuing to do so. Most farms were small holdings each keeping a few cattle and sheep. The small holding usually consisted of a few productive fields (inbye meadows and pastures) on the lower land, some higher rough pasture and grazing rights on the moor.
During the 1800's, the majority of men on the farms became involved with lead mining whilst the womenfolk and children looked after the land and animals. Many of these small holdings only survived due to the dual income obtained from farming and mining.
As the lead mines closed in the early 1900's, many families left Swaledale to find work, some emigrating to America where mining was still flourishing. Remaining family members and neighbours farmed the land they left behind and amalgamated it into bigger farms.
The last 30-40 years has seen a further increase in farm size, as the economics of the farming industry has dictated. 50 years ago, the land the Calvert Family farm today provided a living for four families. Now it is only supports two families. This fragmented history of land ownership has left the Calvert Family with the scattered pattern of fields and barns.
Traditionally, surplus milk produced in Swaledale was sold in the form of cheese and butter at the local markets in Richmond and Hawes. In the 1930's collections of liquid milk were made from 'milk stands' up and down the dale. Milk was transported by road, in cans, to the Express Dairy in Leyburn.
This practise continued into the 1970's when farmers were encouraged to invest in cooling vats and milk was collected directly from farms in road tanker lorries. Many farmers went out of dairy production at this time as significant investment was needed and often access to remote farms wasn't possible for the new collection tankers.
A new dairy was installed at Hazel Brow and a 'Cubicle House' was built to accommodate the dairy herd in 1977. The modern building allows the cows freedom of movement, it's much nicer for the cows and the farmer! (No more trailing from barn to barn through blizzards, carrying water during icy spells of weather or mucking out by hand). Young cattle and dry cows were still tethered in traditional barns around the farm until 1999 when the farm went into organic conversion and welfare standards dictated that the young stock should have the same comforts as the milk cows. A second Cubicle House was constructed to accommodate the heifers and dry cows.
Further changes in the dairy industry, which include larger herds, mechanised and more productive methods of farming, have led to the sale of our 45 strong Dairy Herd. We now rear young calves and heifers for an organic dairy farm near Leyburn.
The decline in Swaledale's dairy industry has left only 4 producers currently selling milk. The dispersal of the dale's largest dairy herd from Ellerton Abbey farm in 2009 is a significant marker of changing times.