A top trailer maker has come to the rescue of TV presenter Matt Baker as part of a new series documenting his ambitious journey to save his family’s sheep farm.
Matt Baker: Our Farm in the Dales, soon to be aired on More4, follows the Countryfile and former The One Show presenter as he returns to his parents’ organic sheep farm in the Durham hills to make vital changes that will help secure it for future generations.
The popular presenter, who uses a trusty Ifor Williams Trailers livestock trailer throughout filming, was spurred into action after his mother, Janice, 65, was injured when some of their pedigree flock of Hampshire Down sheep crashed into her, just as she was preparing for shearing.
Despite suffering a broken leg and injuries which forced her to have a knee replacement, Janice was determined to continue farming.
Over four 60-minute episodes, viewers will follow Matt, his wife Nicola and their two children, Luke, 13, and Molly, 11, as they head north to restock the remote farm that dates back to the 17th century with more suitable breeds to reduce the future upkeep burden on his parents.
Matt travels across the UK towing a 10’x7’ TA5 Ifor Williams livestock trailer, collecting 10-12 sheep at a time.
The journey takes him to the Lake District where he sources Herdwicks, the Scottish Borders to buy Cheviots and a farm in Snowdonia in North Wales where he collects Black Welsh Mountain shearlings.
“My mum has always been a shepherdess. I’ve grown up with her doing that. We could never have persuaded her to do otherwise – it was always going to be the sheep!” explained Matt, 43.
“Really we are securing the future of the breeding stock on the farm in a way that mum will be able to cope in the winter time on the hill. That really is the whole premise of the show.
“It comes to a point where you start looking after your parents like they looked after you. Farming is such a generational thing anyway and the changes we were making to help mum and dad will be there for my children in the future.”
During filming, Matt took his children along to help choose the breeding stock he hopes they might run in the future.
The trips were long and arduous – but Matt could not fault his new Ifor Williams Trailer which lived up to its reputation for quality.
“It’s a fantastic trailer. Actually, it’s the first Ifor Williams trailer I’ve bought and I’m absolutely delighted, I love it,” he said.
“I love towing it – it’s so smooth it’s incredible. From the Durham Dales to Snowdonia is a long way. To go there and come back was brilliant. I wasn’t afraid to reverse it on camera! It reverses well. I relished it. I love trailers anyway and I’ve been very impressed with it.”
Rob Small, Head of Sales at Ifor Williams Trailers, said the TA5 was the perfect choice for Matt’s mission.
“We are delighted Matt turned to Ifor Williams Trailers to support his exciting plans for the family farm,” he said.
“Ifor Williams’ livestock trailers are the mainstay of farms up and down the country, often outlasting the vehicles that tow them and becoming members of the family in their own right!
“For more than 60 years, farmers have put their trust in our trailers and the Bakers can rest assured their new livestock trailer will be there, by their side, for many years to come.”
Despite a successful television career, Matt has never left the farming life behind and played an active role on his parents’ farm, even before his mum’s accident.
He also keeps sheep at his own farm, an hour outside of London, and credits his wife’s hard work and care for allowing him to combine the perfect rural life with his television career.
“My wife and I have never ever lived together without having sheep! She’s brilliant with all the animals,” he said.
The new series marks a further achievement for the presenter as it has been created by his own production firm, Big Circus Media.
This was one of the main reasons why he felt so comfortable allowing his family to be filmed for the first time and offering viewers such a personal insight into his life.
“They have all been executive producers and if they don’t want anything in, it doesn’t go in!” said Matt, who now faces a mammoth editing task to condense the footage into four programmes.
“This is without doubt the most personal TV show I’ve ever made. Filming on the farm where I grew up with my whole family has been a wonderful and unique experience.
“It’s also my producing and directorial debut with our new production company so it couldn’t be more personal.
“A huge thank you to Sean Doyle at More4, it’s amazing what can happen from a conversation in a barn….”
The farm, which is inhabited by a whole array of other animals including miniature donkeys, pygmy goats, chickens and a litter of Cairn Terrier pups that arrive during filming, now boasts a variety of small nucleus flocks ready for breeding, with the three-year-old Herdwicks already lambing this spring.
The plan is to reduce the number of Hampshire Downs, which are a lowland sheep requiring a lot of care and attention, while continuing with the farm’s existing Hebridean sheep that are well-suited to high ground and building a more sustainable future with the new flocks.
Sean Doyle, Deputy Head of Formats & Features at Channel 4: “We are delighted that Matt and his family will be opening to the doors to their beautiful rural farm on More4.
“The series is a warm, funny, and often emotional look at what it takes for a close-knit family, ably assisted by an eclectic mix of animals, to pull together in the face of adversity.”
Gareth Collett, Executive Producer for Big Circus Media: “Saving his family farm is going to be a long project for Matt but he’s got some great plans to give the land he grew up on a brilliant future. It’s wonderful that More4 have supported us in being able to share the start of this journey with their audience.”