There’s a saying that sums up the resourcefulness of a hill farmer in this part of the world. ‘It’s a bare hillside that he’ll cross over on which he won’t find something he’ll make use of.’
JOHN DUNNING, FOUNDER OF TEBAY SERVICES
When the M6 was built across John and Barbara Dunning’s farm in the late 1960s, they seized upon its potential to bring opportunity and prosperity to their family and community.
Opening Tebay Services in 1972, they were following in the footsteps of generations of upland farmers who have relied upon ingenuity, open mindedness and sheer hard work to live off some of the wettest and most inhospitable agricultural land in England.
High Chapel Farm, on which Tebay Services stands, is a 1,000-acre holding between the villages of Tebay and Orton. It lies across a band of Cumbrian fells flanked by the Lake District and the Pennines, which now falls into the Westmorland Dales, an extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The farm feeds our business with beef, lamb and Herdwick mutton via our butchers at Tebay Services.
We have our own breeding flock of Texel and North Country Mule crosses.
Our beef herd is made up of traditional Northern breeds well suited to land that is classified by DEFRA as Severely Disadvantaged. They are part of an integrated farming system that has persisted on these exposed hills for centuries: turning the only viable crop – grass – into nutritious food while returning fertility to the soil.
As custodians of a small part of this remarkable place, we are working with our neighbours to understand and improve biodiversity, natural habitats and soil health on our land.
We are gradually reducing our stock numbers, encouraging a broader variety of plant species in our pastures and experimenting with different types of grazing, all of which we hope will improve soil structure, fertility and water-retaining properties. We are encouraging the regeneration of traditional hay meadows and moorland and planting trees to improve habitats for birds and wildlife.
Bob Day, our farm manager, has been with us since he left agricultural college 35 years ago. He works closely with John Dunning’s elder daughter, Jane Lane, who oversees the farming side of our business. A gifted stockman, Bob practises traditional methods of animal husbandry that suit both livestock and land.
We don’t hurry things or cut corners. We produce only as much meat as our land can healthily support. Above all, we treat our animals with the reverence and respect they deserve. During the time they are with us in our care on the farm, they have the dignity of a good-quality life.
We work with a careful selection of hardy northern breeds to supply our business with the best beef our land can produce.