Me and My Pet - Stephen Sowray and Wellie
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 June 2017
Retired farmer Stephen Sowray shares his passion for Yorkshire, tractors and a golden Labrador called Wellie
With a family history that stretches back more than 300 years in Yorkshire, I have an inherent affinity with God’s own country.
Our mixed arable and pig farm at Humberton, near Helperby, has been farmed by Sowrays for four generations – ever since my grandfather’s arrival in 1926 from Masham. Originally the Sowrays were cordwainers (shoe makers) in York, and at one time they owned Clifford’s Tower (bought in 1699 for £58 and 15 shillings).
I’m retired now and live in Melmerby near Ripon with my wife, dog and six hens. My sons David and Jonathan have taken over the farm, recently buying the land from the Crown Estate. I still go down to the farm most days though and I’m usually invited to help out with some of the odd jobs.
Unsurprisingly, my family has always kept working dogs. Happy childhood memories of those farm animals have left me with a lifelong love-affair with golden Labradors and I’ve owned five of my own over the past 40 or so years.
Six-year-old Wellie, pedigree name Rose Thistle Sand, is my current dog and he’s a great companion.
A loyal and obedient dog, I trust him completely, whether that be around our grandchildren or alone in the back garden where, if he chose, he could easily jump the fence.
Wellie remains my ever-present shadow. There’s some fantastic shooting in our corner of Yorkshire and we both enjoy our days out shooting or picking up on shoots. Although Wellie’s not always the best dog in field, he is certainly not the worst, and I’m not the best shot so we’re pretty-evenly matched.
Apart from farming and dogs, my other great passion in life is my vintage tractors and I’m an enthusiastic member of the Yorkshire Vintage Association as well as both the Ferguson and the David Brown tractor clubs. I have four vintage tractors all told dating from the 1954-61 period, which was when I first started out in farming.
When I’m not working, you’ll find me heading out for a run on one of my vintage tractors with Wellie on the back. At 77, I’m taking life a bit easier so I combine walking Wellie with a drive around the beautiful countryside. We’ll head down the track to the River Swale, where Wellie can swim to his heart’s content. Fortunately, he hasn’t inherited the Labrador trait of gluttony so our regular runs and a healthy diet keep him in good shape.
Now I’m retired I am a regular traveller, especially to visit friends in Australia and to France to follow my interest in the history of the two world wars. Where I can, I try to combine my interests, so I’m a member of the Hunter Valley Vintage Farm Machinery Club in Australia. Wellie is actually named after a particularly uproarious Wellington Boot country race meeting in Wellington NSW.
But Yorkshire will always be my home. As well as helping on the farm, I enjoy taking part in tractor runs to raise money for charity. Things simply wouldn’t be the same without Wellie standing proudly on the back of the tractor behind me. w
Stephen Sowray and Wellie will be at Tractor Fest, the largest outdoor vintage festival of its kind, at Newby Hall on June 10th-11th. For details, visit newbyhall.com/events/tractor-fest-2017