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The Cumberland News


By Eleanor Wilson

SHE’S only five foot tall and weighs seven stone, but so fierce was Moira Linaker’s determination to defend her sheep from being culled during the foot and mouth crisis that it earned her the nickname Rottweiler.

Now the 62-year-old grandmother has written a book detailing the six solitary months she spent behind the locked gates of her small-holding in Warwick Bridge protecting her herd of healthy, rare breed Ryeland sheep from Government vets enforcing the three-kilometre cull. Her stand, which attracted national press coverage, came in the same year her son Stephen was killed in the Isle of Man TT races.

Moira says she wrote Behind Chained Gates to rid herself of recurring nightmares and insomnia, a therapy which has proved successful and resulted in a funny, heart-warming book about starting a new rural life in Cumbria.

Moira, now living in Greenhead just over the border in Northumberland, says: “It’s about when I came to Cumbria from the North East and bought a derelict cottage with an acre of land.”

Inspired to try her hand at farming by 1970s sitcom The Good Life, Moira’s first livestock were a flock of geese with a gander so aggressive eggs had to be collected using a stick and an old metal shoe rack as a shield – antics which often attracted a crowd of dog walkers.

Branching out into sheep tending, she originally only planned on a couple of lambs to keep the grass short, but found herself bringing 15 home from a neighbouring farm in the back of her Honda Civic, rather than leave any to be slaughtered.

The lambs needed to be bottle fed for a few weeks, but Moira had never heard of a teat-bucket, which most farmers use.

“I used to get up day and night thinking they had to be fed every four hours like babies, but then I didn’t know which ones I’d fed and which ones I hadn’t and had to start again. I was totally exhausted.”

These days Moira’s herd are prize-winning beasts. Among her proudest achievements is reintroducing Ryeland sheep to the royal household when she donated a pair to Prince Charles, who began corresponding with her after she wrote to him for help.The Prince has received a pre-published copy of the book.

Behind Chained Gates, which has already sold more than 150 advance copies, is being launched on Thursday and is available from Hayloft Publishing in Kirkby Stephen by calling 01683 42300.