Renewed interest in a Roman fort near Bishop Auckland has led
to a fresh start for farming couple Gordon and Julie Sedgewick.
The Sedgewicks and their Kelpie pup Sam
The Sedgewicks have made great progress in their farming business
since taking on the tenancy of the Church Commissioners’ holding
Binchester Hall Farm 12 years ago.
However, plans to further excavate and enhance the Roman fort
at the centre of Binchester Hall Farm right on the Roman road Dere
Street has led to the landlords offering the couple the tenancy
of another farm, enabling them to expand their beef, sheep and
Already excavations have been carried out recently and filmed
by Channel 4’s Time Team which is presented by Tony Robinson.
Gordon Sedgewick has put all his energy into building up the business
on 300 acres, all but 70 of which is down to grass. The grade 2
loam next to the River Wear is used for arable cropping for home
use in rotation with potatoes and a further 100 acres is farmed
Julie has combined helping Gordon build up the 70 Limousin cross
suckler cow herd and 500 principally North of England Mule ewe
flock with a number of roles in the sheep industry reflecting her
organisational skills through which she is known countrywide.
The National Sheep Association’s northern regional secretary
since 1989, Julie has been busy organising the region’s successful
biennial event, NSA North
Sheep at North Hanging Wells in Weardale
on June 6.
The Sedgewicks will give up the buildings at Binchester Hall but
retain most of the land as well as taking on the 400-acre Ricknall
Grange, Aycliffe, near Darlington which is half arable and half
“Because of the Roman remains we’re in a scheduled
area so we haven’t been able to put up new buildings and
it has been very restricting. We have outgrown here now,” said
“We have come to the end of our tenancy and we’re
lucky to have been given the opportunity to take the other farm
on,” added Gordon, who will be moving closer to his roots
in the Sedgefield area – while Julie originally lived just
over the river from Binchester.
Further enhancing the area’s unique appeal, the farm has
been in Countryside Stewardship for five years, as is the new farm.
For 20 years Julie was able to enjoy her “obsession” with
shows, exhibiting Mule gimmer shearlings to promote their flock.
However, since the demise of auction marts at Bishop Auckland
and Tow Law where the shearlings from the flying flock were sold
on the following September, the Sedgewicks have kept an older flock
of ewes, retaining some of the Suffolk and Texel cross lambs as
The ewes are lambed in March and the hoggs in April during an
eight week period. In May, 150 hoggs with lambs at foot were sold
but now all the lambs are sold finished, mostly deadweight, off
Last year’s lamb crop was all sold by October with no supplementary
feed averaging an R3 grade.
Now Julie, with the help of Gordon and their 18 year old son Tim,
a pupil at Barnard Castle School who is going to Harper Adams University
College to study rural enterprise and land management and hopes
to be a chartered surveyor, has turned her energies into showing
commercial cattle – already with a good deal of success.
“I missed not showing the sheep so we started showing cattle
which we hope will help to sell the calves as stores,” said
“I don’t really need an excuse to go to a show but
I felt I wanted to be doing something and be involved. We had a
couple of home bred calves that we showed at Hexham which made
a good price and that encouraged us,” she added.
The suckler cows are autumn and winter calving with calves sold
at special suckler sales in Hexham at 10 to 12 months old.
Current pure bred Limousin stock bulls were bred by George Hutton,
of Threlkeld, Keswick and Mark Simpson, of Hamsterly.
“We’re pleased with our sale averages as currently
most of our cows are Holstein Friesian cross bred by my brother
John who has a large dairy herd. Now we’re intending to breed
from some three quarter Limousin cows to get into the top end of
the market with our calves,” said Gordon.
At the March sale in Hexham, seven month old bullocks just off
their mothers averaged £568, with the weaned bullocks averaging £577
and the heifers £485 – a total of 30 head. The rest
of the calves are sold mostly in October.
Three quarter calves will be kept as some herd replacements while
the odd quality heifer will be bought for showing and retained
The heifer Bramble, bought from John Smith-Jackson, of Haltwhistle
won her class at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2005 and she produced
a heifer calf last August which Julie hopes to show later this
Only two years into showing cattle, during that year a Limousin
cross Belgian Blue bullock called Mojo bought from Robin Williamson,
of Hamsterly, winning three local championships in a row.
During the summer of 2006 they did not have much time for showing
cattle, however at the end of October they had their best success
to date with a 10 month old red Limousin heifer by Rossignol bred
by John Richardson, of Appleby, which won the baby beef championship
at Countryside Live in Harrogate.
She is likely to be shown at The Great Yorkshire this summer and
be joined in the show team by a Belgian Blue heifer, also bred
by Robin Williamson.
The showing has to fit in with Julie’s events’ organisation,
which for an event like NSA North Sheep can take up to eight months.
For 10 years until 2001, Julie handled promotions for the Suffolk
Sheep Society, after that she became involved with the NSA’s
stand at the Royal Highland, Royal and Royal Welsh.
In 2004, she co-ordinated Scotsheep with Euan Emslie which
is staged on alternate years to North Sheep, last year’s
event being in Aberdeenshire.
After only as couple of months’ breather from North Sheep,
they will begin preparations for next year’s Scotsheep at
Also in 2004 she took on the organisation again with Euan of the
Sheep Event at Malvern, previously run by the Royal Agricultural
“It’s all about attention to detail and making sure everyone
is happy. It’s always difficult staging specialist events on
a farm to make sure you get everything like car parking or access
right as you only have one chance,” said Julie.
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