Monday, 25 March 2013

Life and Death in the Snow

In upper Teesdale and Weardale we have had snow here for weeks. This is the border sign between Teesdale and Weardale several days before the latest band of snow arrived.

06D-2314 Snow piled up against a road sign on the B6278 at the Teesdale Weardale Border in County Durham
Sign on the B6278 before the latest bad weather hit

It is of course blocked yet again. The pic incidentally was used by the Times Newspaper on the 21st March to highlight the anticipated bad weather

As a result weather related imagery has been in high demand and despite there being plenty of pro photographers stupid enough to give photos away for free (egos bigger than their brains springs to mind) it has still been possible to license some to various news organisation. I could at this point have a massive and perhaps pointless rant about such photographers, but I suppose I had better refrain...... for now at least.

Anyway, one area I noticed that was being under reported was the plight of farmers who are currently in the middle of lambing and so after a night of high winds and driving snow I headed out early.

06D-2661 Sheep coping with the heavy snowfall and blizzards Teesdale County Durham.
Sheep are hardy animals

This farmer was already doing his rounds and battling through the drifts and driving snow to check on his sheep, give them their winter feed and collect up any sheep that had lambed during the last few hours.

06D-2682 Farmer driving through deep snow to check on his sheep.

Sheltered by a wall one mother had given birth recently and I grabbed a few shots of mother and lamb. What I did not notice, was that right next to her and covered by the drifting snow lay a second which sadly had not survived. This was the first lamb to die so far this year, which is amazing considering the weather and testament to how much time and effort is expended on caring for these animals, day and night.

06D-2631 Newborn Lamb in Snow Teesdale County Durham UK
What a horrible day to be born

06D-2739 Farmer and lamb.
Sadly some do not make it

It never ceases to maze me that any can survive in such conditions but they do. Within a short time the surviving lamb was soon struggling to get to its feet and after half a dozen tries stood there looking wet and bedraggled. Soon the mother had him/her cleaned up and then few minutes later they were moved to the barn.

06D-2710 Sheep with lamb born during heavy snowfall Teesdale County Durham
Standing and taking those first steps

06D-2746 Mother and Newborn Lamb in Snow Teesdale County Durham

A portrait version of this shot was published in the Daily Mail on Sunday.

Text/images copyright David Forster


  1. It’s a tough life being a farmer and especially so at the moment. Great shots. I have had some of mine used by 3rd parties without permission. It’s quite a shock when you see them staring back at you from some glossy mag.

    1. It certainly is a tough life and it has started snowing again here. It is a growing problem of people using pics without permission. I have spotted 28 copyright infringements so far this month which includes a magazine front cover dated to 2010, commercial websites, blogs and a newspaper.. I don't know if you license images regularly but if you spot any more of your pics being used commercially and you want payment, you can now use a small claims court track (UK only) if you do bill someone and they don't pay up.

  2. Firbank's 'I Bought a Mountain' has excellent passages on sheep surviving seemingly insurmountable odds. They really are amazing.

    1. Thanks for the info Mark, while I had heard of the book I had never researched anything relating to the guy until today. He sounds an interesting character and I will keep an eye out for his book as there seems to have been several reprints.

  3. Great pictures, David. Glad to see you're getting some work out of the bad weather. That really is a harsh existence up there – for man and beast. It puts things into perspective for we people living in the flatlands down here where we grumble if there's a light dusting on the ground.
    Cheers, Alen

    1. "It's an ill wind that blows no good" as they say when it comes to weather news. I think we all enjoy a good grumble when it comes to the weather. Mind you I seem to have reached the age where I seem to grumble about a lot of things.