A year in hill farming

9 January -12 April 2021

Tan Hill Open Swaledale Sheep Show

John Bentley’s photographic exhibition ‘A Year in Hill Farming’ documented the sheep farming year in the uplands of Yorkshire and Cumbria. The photographs had been taken over the past 6 years by John who is based in Settle and is fascinated by the cycle and traditions of the farming year, the diversity of sheep and hill farming and the dedication of individual farmers and localities to particular breeds.

He said: “To me it is very important to document the industry as it stands and I am very respectful of the history and traditions of sheep farming and its social and economic importance to the Dales and the rural north of England. There are economic and environmental pressures on the industry and this past year has, of course, also seen the impact of Covid-19, meaning that the gatherings for the traditional shows and sales (as depicted in many of the photographs) can no longer take place in the usual way. The photographs in the exhibition document the sheep breeds, the people who rear / buy / sell them, the workings of the farming calendar and the environment and the infrastructure of hill farming. “

John has been a keen photographer for over 40 years. He has a wide range of photographic interests including live concert photography, landscape, travel and documentary photography. While John contributes news and stock photographs to a national press agency he is retired from full-time employment and able to devote his time to his personal photographic projects. In 2016/17 he was a contributor to the ‘Voices from the Land’ exhibition (initially staged at Hawes Countryside Centre), which focussed on interviewing and photographing farmers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. His wide range of photographic work can be viewed online at-


John says: “When I moved to Settle my farming photo project was mainly centred around photographing agricultural shows, livestock markets and sheepdog trials. In particular, sheep shows like Tan Hill and the various Lake District Shepherds’ Meets started to loom large in the coverage. Becoming an ‘addict’ of sorts, I was drawn into photographing the world of hill sheep farming. There is still so much to photograph in the realm of sheep, but in the meantime in this exhibition I’ve tried to paint a picture of how the farming year pans out, including putting the tups with the ewes (or ‘yows’) in autumn, pregnancy testing, spring lambing, fell gathers, shearing, shows and sales and haymaking. I’ve tried to record the people, the animals, the activities, the infrastructure, the landscape and environment and the seasons. I find lots of aspects to photograph, although Covid-19.

A guide giving the background to the exhibition and more about hill farming today can be downloaded here:

The story behind the exhibition