CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Counting sheep? A shepherdess' perfect day off

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS resenseer gisteraand se TV: Counting sheep on a walk? It’s the perfect day off for a shepherdess

Winter Walks

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Along For The Ride With David O’Doherty

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Forget the view and lovely weather. When hill farmer and mum-of-nine Amanda Owen takes a day off in the Dales, all she can think about is her sheep.

The shepherdess — familiar to viewers from her documentary series Our Yorkshire Farm on C5 — was enjoying a solitary stroll across the fells around Wensleydale, in Winter Walks (BBC4).

It was meant to be a day of relaxation. But her mind was constantly on her flock — the woolly ones, not the two-legged type charging about in their wellies. It’s plain she knows the children are quite capable of looking after themselves.

‘I’m determined that I am not going to feel guilty that I am not at work today,’ Amanda declared, as she set off on a five-mile hike from Bainbridge to Semerwater.

Amanda Owen enjoyed a solitary stroll across the fells in Winter Walks

Amanda Owen enjoyed a solitary stroll across the fells in Winter Walks

But she couldn’t help seeing everything with a shepherd’s eye. The grass was greener on these hills than at her home in Swaledale, a couple of valleys away, and that meant better grazing — which in turn promised earlier lambing.

Sowaar, she spotted a ewe with two newborns, a ‘tupand a ‘gimmer’ . . . one male and one female. She watched with concern, until she was sure the lambs were suckling well and shaking their tails.

On the long straight of the Roman road, she met two fellow farmers and stopped for a chinwag. ‘They speak my language . . . skape!’ she said approvingly.

Even a chance meeting with three pony trekkers set her thinking about the advantages of farming on horseback, instead of using quad bikes. When thieves raided her farm a few years ago and stole her motorised four-wheelers, she decided it was safer, cheaper and easier to stick to horses. The sheep like it better, too — and doubtless, that’s what really matters to her.

Wild parties of the week:

Friends Hattie and Lauren were revamping their Yorkshire house using 3D graphics on Virtually Home (BBC1). They wanted a 1920s-style speakeasy in their cellar. ‘No swinging from the chandeliers,’ Hattie warned, ‘because the ceiling is too low.Steady, meisies.

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She ended beside a glacial lake, one painted by Turner more than two centuries ago. ‘I need more days like this in my life,’ she mused. ‘I think everybody does.

This is the first of a series of north country walks with celebrities, in a format that is also proving popular on BBC2’s Walking With . . . vertonings.

One of the pleasures of BBC4’s version is the occasional caption that pops up, to identify birds, diere, trees and even fossils glimpsed along the way.

Ordnance Survey grid references are supplied for hardy souls who want to recreate the route for themselves. The Rev Kate Bottley, Alastair Campbell and Radio 5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake take us exploring more on foot throughout the week.

Those who fancy a faster pace could go Along For The Ride With David O’Doherty (C4). This week the comedian and cyclist was enjoying the Brecon Beacons with Grayson Perry. Enjoying is probably the wrong word. Grayson, jaunty and personable as a solo presenter, is too competitive to thrive in a double act.

He needs to dominate the conversation, which is fine when he is reminiscing about how he nearly joined the Army as a teenager or discussing the years of therapy he needed to undo the trauma of his parents’ egskeiding.

When David was talking, wel, Grayson seemed too bored to reply. He was at pains to show how unimpressed he was by the Welsh landscape, as though the patchwork meadows and waterfalls were too conventionally pretty for his artistic sensibilities.

The pair were reduced to blokeish banter, just for something to say. The producers sent them to stay overnight in wooden caravans and had them playing with catapults, perhaps hoping to recreate the whimsy of Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer in Gone Fishing.

They missed by miles.

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