AFTER an absence of close to 30 years, the return of the Swaledale section at an agricultural show was welcomed by the local farming community.

Reintroducing the breed in the Upper Redesdale Show, held in Rochester in September, was well received as the sheep had not been shown there since 1990.

Its return extended the number of classes to three to go alongside the Hexham type and Scotch type Blackface competitions.

The show’s head sheep steward, Mark Anderson, of Bellingham, said: “We had four different farmers showing in the class and we hope to get half a dozen to eight next year and keep it growing.

“It’s just to keep the interest in Swaledales going. The sheep are good milkers and good mothers, and they are good crossing with Blackfaces. I was very pleased we could bring the Swaledales back and we got a lot of feedback from people saying how good it was to see them back on the showfield.”

Leaving the showfield with the honour of being the first winner of the breed since 1990 was Yorkshireman Rob Airey, who farms 300 Swaledales on the hills next to Otterburn Ranges.

He was delighted to take home the trophy with the quality of entries high on the day.

“There’s a few boys moving in to the area with Swaledales so that gives us a bit of a chance to bring the breed to a great local show like Rochester.

“So I was very pleased to take the trophy and I will be there again next year to try to hold on to the championship.

“There was a tremendous turn-out for the breed within the area so hopefully we will be able to maintain that and get farmers from further afield to enter.”