‘If you can hang on a minute… I’ve just got to try and save this lamb.’ This is how James Rebanks greets me one blustery April morning, leaping off his quad bike and leaving me in no doubt that I am on a proper working farm, with a proper – and passionate – shepherd. And if tending to some 900 sheep wasn’t enough, James is also the author of the best-selling book, The Shepherd’s Life, as well as something of a Twitter sensation (find him at @herdyshepherd1).
I’ve driven to James’s beautiful farm in the Lake District in an Audi Q3 to experience a day on the land, and the car and I are immediately put to work. After all, there are 400 expectant ewes and a lot of lambs to keep an eye on. ‘I’m putting farming first at the moment,’ James tells me as I select dynamic mode and steer the car off the track and across a very steep field near to the farmhouse. ‘Being a good farmer and a good writer – those are very difficult things to try and juggle!’
The Shepherd’s Life was dubbed ‘the surprise hit of 2015’, though James has had ambitions to write ever since he was a teenager. ‘I wanted to put my father and grandfather back into the literature of the Lake District,’ he says. ‘When I first read books about this part of the world I couldn’t help but wonder “Where is all the work? All the stuff I love?”’