Yew Tree farm © Steven Barber

© Steve Barber Yew Tree Farm

One of our Belties. This picture was drawn as a demonstration for Watermillock Art Society.

Yew Tree Herdwick Tup

Yew Tree Herdwick Tup. Commissioned by Ryan Blackburn at The Old Stamphouse Restaurant in Ambleside.

I’m based at the famous Yew Tree Farm in Coniston where I’m surrounded by constant inspiration for my drawings and paintings! Yew Tree Farm was once owned by Beatrix Potter, and I love the idea that I’m following in her footsteps, specialising in the character of our domestic and wild cumbrian animals.

I help my partner, Jon Watson, to manage the Herdwick sheep and Belted Galloway cows that graze the 700 acres of Yew Tree Farm. I even turn my hand to butchery on occasion in our farm shop…never thought I’d be doing that when I was in my vegetarian, student days!!

©Stephen McGrath Me and Jon bringing in a calf after mum abandoned it. They were later reunited with great success!

© Craig Bowers Herdwicks can be very friendly!

© Stephen McGrath

© Stephen McGrath The next generation of Yew Tree sheep dogs.


© Alexandra van Kervel A sucessful outcome after a difficult lambing. Very satisfying.

© Jane Watson

© Jane Watson Working on a portrait commission.

But mainly, I have the luxury of spending at least some of my days photographing, drawing and painting animals! Either as commissions and portraits, or as new work destined for sale in exhibitions and to be added to my range of prints and cards.

I haven’t always been a professional artist though. I trained and worked in countryside management and farming for many years. I loved my work which was always interesting and very varied.

At exhibition at Lowther Castle

At exhibition at Lowther Castle

I worked in some of the most beautiful spots in Surrey, Hampshire and Lancashire. One day I’ll have been  designing information boards and leaflets, giving guided walks and undertaking surveys of rare plants and animals. Another day may have found me dry stonewalling, hedge laying or building stiles and boardwalks.

Other jobs saw my days occupied by lambing sheep, blood testing cows, milking goats, treating boils on pigs and massaging buffalo with oil! I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it all.

My biggest acheivment at that time however, was setting up and running my ‘Mobile Farm’, which was enormous fun and immensely rewarding! This entailed loading up my Land Rover and trailer with  goats and kids, sheep and lambs, pigs, ducks, geese, the lot!! Then heading off to bring the countryside into town.

I’d drive into school yards to be met by the sight of hundreds of  kids, barely able to contain themselves, virtually bursting out of windows and doors to see the animals whilst teachers were vainly hollering…’SIT  DOWWWN!!!!”

The children would be brought  out in small groups to watch, eyes all agog as I milked the goats, splashing a bit of warm milk on their hands. They bottle fed lambs wearing face splitting grins as they did so. And we talked about farming, what it’s all about, and how it shapes our landscapes and economies. I like to think they walked back into their classrooms with something they’ll  always remember.