A small farm high in the Pennine Dales of County Durham hosts many visitors each year and is home to a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle.
Harry Elliott with a young Hereford bull.
When Jan and Harry Elliott took on Low Cornriggs Farm, Cowshill in Weardale in 1989 the farmhouse was home to cattle and goats.
After much refurbishment over the years the farmhouse now offers bed and breakfast at AA four star yellow rating (highly recommended and in the top 10 per cent of the rating).
And two new holiday cottages, in their fourth season in 2009, are at the highest rating by the English Tourist Board for self catering accommodation with five stars.
The 30-acre farm runs to up to 1,800ft where the Hereford cattle graze during the summer months – probably the highest kept Hereford herd in the country.
The breed perfectly complements the Elliotts’ emphasis on looking after the environment. All the farm is in an SSSI and the North Pennines ESA.
The Elliotts ran Herefords commercially until about 10 years ago and when they re-stocked after 2001’s foot and mouth epidemic they took the opportunity to set up a pedigree herd.
They bought the best they could afford, initially five heifers from Ronald and Robert Wilson’s Cartbog herd near Kelso.
That autumn the Elliotts had planned to go to the Canadian Beef Expo show and the Wilsons kept the heifers until their return and even bulled them with Critchley Figurehead.
Stock bull Greenyards Ajax with Cornriggs females.
They invested in a stock bull, Greenyards Ajax, the half brother of Greenyards Archie, the Hereford Cattle Society’s bull of the year in 2007.
Now the Cornriggs herd numbers 13 females, six of the Elliotts’ own breeding, and including six cows.
Harry is chairman of the North of England Hereford Breeders Association which now boasts 53 members.
The breed’s docility and ease of handling is one of the attributes attracting new breeders, particularly women, says Jan, who remembers the predominance of the breed when she was a young girl in south Yorkshire.
“There is a big revival of interest in the breed,” said Harry. “A lot of people are going for Herefords because of the eating qualities of the meat and the marbling of the flesh and the fact that they are very docile to look after.
“Traditionally, they were bred to produce tallow and fat as well and people think of the meat as being fat but today’s genetics are aimed at producing quality meat.
“Our cows thrive during the summer on traditional meadow allotments at almost 2,000 ft above sea level.”
The cows are very fertile and easy calving - there has been no need to assist any calvings in six years.
The cows go to the summer grazing a mile and a half away from the farm steading at the beginning of May where they calve in September, weather permitting returning to the farm in October.
Animals not retained for breeding are slaughtered at the local abattoir and then are sold to a waiting list of customers in 15kg boxes of a variety of cuts.
Because of the environmental constraints of the farm where meadows are home to important species of flora and fauna, the Hereford herd number is now at its optimum although it will be developed through progressive breeding.
While just a small number of pedigrees have been sold for breeding, an Ajax sired heifer made 1,500gns at the last sale in Carlisle. There are two heifers and a bull to be entered for the May Carlisle sale.
The Elliotts have started showing their pedigree Herefords helped by 14 year old Richard Dent – proof of the animals’ docility. Last year the herd picked up a first and a third ticket at both Penrith and Stanhope shows in the native breeds classes.
The holiday cottages have a five star Tourist Board rating.
Jan comes from a family of butchers and bakers, so preparing what she describes as ‘country fare’ for her visitors is second nature.
She has won the Pie Award made by the AA for quality breakfasts and evening meals since 2000 and the farmhouse, which has three en-suite double rooms, is in the Michelin B&B guide.
Harry is also showing his prowess in the kitchen equalling Jan’s bronze medal in the National Marmalade Day held at Dalemain near Penrith in February. Jan won her medal in the bed and breakfast section while Harry’s was in the Man-made category. Among his repertoire of mainly sweet dishes is a Tiramisu.
The bed and breakfast business attractors guests year-round, particularly during the winter when it snows as there are three ski tows within a nine mile radius.
Among them are people from abroad tracing their ancestral heritage in the dales.
When keen horsewoman Jan decided to close her riding stables at Low Cornriggs six years ago the redundant building was knocked down to provide the two purpose built holiday cottages with wide views across the valley.
Each cottage has three large bedrooms each with bathroom and shower room and full facilities for the disabled as well as lounge and fully fitted kitchen, catering for either weekly or short bookings.
Both the B&B business and the cottages have achieved a silver award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme for the level of recycling carried out.
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