Walker family on to a winner with champion pen of 10 at CCM Skipton NEMSA gimmer lamb opener Caton Otterburn Lodge flock champion and reserve in 20s show class The Walker family, who farm 6,000 acres of primarily fells high above Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, consigned the champion pen of ten at Skipton Auction Mart’s opening annual gimmer lamb show and sale for members of the North of England Mule Sheep Association (NEMSA). (Tues, Sept 10)

They landed the title for the second time – their first came around seven years ago – with Brennand Farm ewe lambs, seven by their home-bred J18, J7 and L1 Bluefaced Leicester tups, a brace by an Alan Wight Midlock tup, the other by a John Lord Hewgill ram.
The Walkers – husband and wife, Geoff and Margaret, and their two sons, John and Rob – have picked up multiple tickets down the years at the Skipton NEMSA highlights, also sending out the champion pen of ten at last year’s second sale.
They said the high profile opener was the one they really wanted to win and their 2019 victors, which arrived during “the best Spring we have ever had,”  went on to sell for second joint top price of £175 per head to WH Allan, of Oxfordshire.
Long-standing NEMSA member the Walkers – they have been breeding North of England Mules for four decades out of their long established Swaledale ewe flock - were also responsible for the fifth prize pen of tens, these coming from their neighbouring Whitendale Farm and knocked down for £160 each. In addition, they sent out the sixth prize pen of 20s, which made £130.
However, it was the reserve champion pen from the 2018 Skipton champions, NEMSA national chairman Kevin Wilson, who farms with his wife Daphne and son, James, at Hewness House Farm, Blubberhouses, that achieved the day’s top price of £190 each when joining Andrew Bramall & Son in the Derbyshire Peak District’s Hope Valley.
All were again by home-bred tups. One was by their renowned and well utilised F1 Bighead, still shared in partnership with his Richmondshire breeder, Marrick’s  Alan Busby, all the others by F1’s sons – six by Hewness J2, two by L1 and one by L4.
The fourth prize pen of same way bred 20s from the same home made £135, with a second pen of 20s doing better at £170 when again claimed the Bramalls, with the family’s  run of 350 lambs at the Skipton opener averaging £105.13 overall.
The Wilsons say they will be back with more show lambs for the second NEMSA gimmer lamb feature on Tuesday, September 24. In 2017, the family won both the pens of tens and 20s show classes.
What could well be an illustrious first at Skipton was a notable one-two in the 20s show class by local husband and wife, Ashley and Rachael Caton, of Otterburn Lodge, who have also won multiple NEMSA titles and prizes at their local auction mart.
They were clinching the 20s title for a record 10th time and their 2019 victors were all by home-bred tups, the majority by K12, another three by one of his sons. They sold locally for £145 each to Silsden Moor’s Simon Bennett, the same way bred reserve champions for £130 to J&H Tustian in Banbury.
An increased entry of 6,929 head from breeders right across the district and buyers countrywide sold to an overall average of £90.75 per head, just 0.47p down on last year’s corresponding fixture, when trade was better than anticipated.
The lambs forward for sale this year were of a more mixed quality than most expected given the good availability of grass this summer, resulting in a more even split of tupping and running lambs than would normally be seen at the opening fixture.
Both the top end and stronger bodied lambs were a sharp trade for most of the sale, while running lambs were a straight trade in the morning in front of expectations, though they eased in price as the sale progressed.
Back in the show pens, the Kitching family, from Grisedale Farm, Threshfield – Frank Kitching remains NEMSA’s Skipton branch chairman – stood third in the tens show class, four in the pen by home-bred sons of their old Heron stock tup, three by H8 Smearsett, two by H16 Riddings and one by another home-bred H8 son. Their charges sold for £155.
The fourth prize pen from Draughton’s Joe and Nancy Throup made £150, though it was the sixth prize pen from Chris and Christine Ryder in Blubberhouses that did notably well when achieving joint second top price of £175. All in the pen were by home-bred rams, bred from the Smearsett G19 tup and out of ewes got by C9 Asby Hall.
Father and son, Francis and James Caton, from Weston, Otley, finished third in the 20s show class with lambs sold for joint top price of £150 to Halton West’s Aimee Beresford – they also made £155 with a pen of tens - while placed fifth were Ellis Bros, of Addingham Moorside, with lambs at £104.
North Craven father and son, David and Robin Booth, from Feizor, equalled the £150 joint top price with 20s, while also catching with eye with £150 pens of tens were Embsay’s John and Claire Mason, and the Fawcett family in Drebley - Stephen and Tracey Fawcett, and their daughter, Samantha.
CCM Auctions again presented cash prizes for the day’s leading flock averages. Of the vendors consigning 100 or more lambs, the Weston-based Catons led the way with 206 at £112.96, followed by the Otterburn Catons with 122 at £110.96 and the Walker family from Appletreewick with 166 at £105.82.
The Fawcetts headed the averages for under 100 lambs with 35 at £131.11, followed by Austwick mother and son, Janet and James Huck, with 75 at £113.07, then the Smearsett Booths with 95 at £108.71.
Title winners in both show classes received Ciba Geigy perpetual trophies, with the champion pen of 10 also awarded the Chester Kneller Memorial Trophy. The 10s show class was co-judged by Clitheroe’s Peter Fox and Caroline Mole, from Aylesbury, the 20s by Jonathon Putt, of Tedbury St Mary, and Nesfield’s Chris Harker,
Show sponsors once again were Pearson Farm Supplies/Carrs Billington, Armstrong Watson Accountants & Financial Advisers, and Barclays Bank, represented by agricultural manager Ian Robson and apprentice Liam Brittain.
The seasonal Skipton opener remains one of the leading fixtures of its kind in the north and the second to be staged in NEMSA’s annual members-only autumn ewe lamb show and sale season, which runs through until the end of October.