Me and My Pet - Charles Mills and Martha

PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 June 2017




Appleton Roebuck farmer – and honorary director of the Great Yorkshire Show – Charles Mills praises his excitable pet

Ready for adventure – Charles and Martha at home in Appleton RoebuckReady for adventure – Charles and Martha at home in Appleton Roebuck

I was sitting in my tractor cab spraying a field of spring barley on a perfect Yorkshire morning. The sun was out and, as usual, my three-year-old black Labrador bitch Martha was beside me, soaking up the scene.

There was a roe deer with a fawn, several hares scampered past, lapwings were sitting on their nests and an abundance of skylarks soared through the sky. And while I quietly and happily took it all in, Martha started to go mad with excitement.

The hares had caught her eye and, as they hopped around the fields oblivious, Martha was up against the window, tail wagging and her head spinning from left to right. This is what we both love; the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside and the nature that surrounds us every day. While I appreciate the work that goes into creating such a scene, Martha is instinctively drawn to the animals who call it home.

I’ve always had pets. Dogs, cats, pigeons, mice, goldfish, horses and even a squirrel. My first was a rabbit. I was away at school in Scarborough from the age of eight but, thankfully, we were allowed to take pets. I took my New Zealand white rabbit – and came back with six! Needless to say, that was my first real life lesson in animal reproduction.

When I was 13, I had a Jack Russell terrier called Sandy. He was my pal and we went everywhere together. Wild rats and rabbits were always a target! We were out and about on one of our missions one day, when we came across a baby squirrel. I took her home and we reared her with an ink pen filled with cow’s milk.

The squirrel was christened Lu Lu because she had big eyes. Unfortunately, however, Lu Lu also had big teeth. She bit my mother and, very sadly for me, we had to release her back into the wild. She still came back to the house every day though to see us.

A farm is the perfect place for pets. Martha has all the space she needs to run around and be free, while keeping me company as I work in the fields.

She’s also a great guard dog, alerting us if anyone is coming down the drive or near the house. My days are busy either on the farm or at the showground but I always round it off with a walk with Martha before bed. We have some great moments. I can’t imagine life without a dog.

Charles Mills farms at Woolas Grange, Appleton Roebuck, a mixed arable rotation, with a 250-ewe flock as well as a small beef-finishing enterprise. He is also honorary show director of the Great Yorkshire Show and its sister event Countryside Live. The GYS runs from July 11th-13th. For details, visit

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