On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in a little village called Ellingstring, a mile or two out of Masham, there were some pretty remarkable pigs …
Rowan’s parents took the plunge to escape the rat race in 1999, moving from urban life on the South coast to a small holding in rural North Yorkshire in pursue of the good life dream. They had found the overgrown PYO fruit venture in an estate agents window in Ripon whilst visiting friends, and before long the dream was to be a reality and the vans were packed Yorkshire bound! Before they left sunny Sussex their friends all chipped in and bought a big blue and white china pig and had a bit of a collection to get them going on this new venture. The family’s first pig, a Large Black sow who went by the name of Harriet soon arrived and made an impression. 17 years later, and now the venture of their daughter Rowan and her husband Tom, Large Black & Saddleback pigs still remain firmly rooted to this corner of the Dales.
In 2010 Tom & Rowan began their own pig adventures and the Afton herd was born, starting with just two Large Black piglets from a dairy farm in Manchester. It became apparent fairly quickly quite how rare these pigs were when the pair were looking to buy further breeding pigs, only to find that there were only a handful of breeders to choose from in the North of England. Shocking figures from the Rare Breed Survival Trust revealed that there were just 340 breeding sows left and to buy unrelated stock would mean some miles would need to be covered. So that’s what they did! The great pig road trip took them all over the country from Stranraer to Essex, and Manchester to Pickering and other places in between. The range of bloodlines kept by the Afton herd attracted attention from the Rare Breed Survival Trust & they did a feature in their publication The Ark back in 2010?. Since then the number of breeding sows has declined xx and there are just xx registered keepers breeding these wonderful and versatile pigs.
2015 saw the addition of British Saddlebacks to the Afton Herd and Tom and Rowan sourced some of the very best pigs from the Victoria and Lowpark Herds, and the foundation stock have both been shown successfully at county shows by pig men with over 30 years’ experience. This breed is much more widely recognised for its flavoursome and succulent meat, and remains popular with butchers and chefs for its traditional traits. Tom, Rowan and their children continue to promote and enjoy their fabulous pigs attending many of the agricultural shows local to their Yorkshire home. Please come and say hello!