Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A disadvantage and a curse

A £1.5 million, 302-acre North Yorkshire farm that is for sale for the first time in 131 years provides evidence of the sorry plight of hill farmers in Britain


Hill farms struggle by and create incomes of as little as £8,000 per year ($12,600 or €11,300) for their owners and with the sale of a typical example, the 302-acre Wood End Farm at Countersett, near Leyburn in Yorkshire, it looks likely that another one will be consigned to history.


A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
A disadvantage and a curse – Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE


Priced at offers in excess of £1,500,000 ($2.4 million or €2.1 million) and owned by the same family since 1884, the 3,380 square foot Grade II listed farmhouse is comprised of three reception rooms and five bedrooms. It is described as being “in need of some modernisation” and includes features such as 30-pane sash windows, a servant back staircase, a Regency main staircase, a servant bell system and a mural of Fountains Abbey in the hallway.


In addition to a farm steading with various outbuildings, the property also comes with 223 acres of moorland, 12 acres of permanent pasture, 23 acres of in-bye land, 41 acres of meadowland and 3 acres of woodland. All of the land – which ranges in height from 250 meters to 500 meters above sea level – is classified as “severely disadvantaged”.


Wood End Farm also includes a portion of the 100-acre, half a mile long Lake Semerwater, a glacial lake made famous by the painter JMW Turner and the poet Sir William Watson. Featured in Watson’s poem, The Ballad of Semerwater, legend has it that an old man (or angel in disguise) came to a prosperous town in search of food and drink and was turned away at every door. Finally, he came to the home of a poor couple just outside the town and after being treated kindly, as he left, he turned to those who had failed him and uttered a curse: “Semerwater rise, and Semerwater sink, And swallow the town all save this house, Where they gave me food and drink”. The legend has it that the waters of the lake then rose up, flooded the town and drowned the inhabitants. It is said that only the poor couple on the hillside remained unscathed.


A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
Though the setting is idyllic the land is classified as “severely disadvantaged”
A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
A number of outbuildings are included in the sale
A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
Amongst the unusual features of the house is a mural of Fountains Abbey in the hall
A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
A dining room decorated by someone who loves pink is one of three reception rooms
A disadvantage and a curse - Wood End Farm, Marsett Lane, Countersett, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3DE
Traditionalist poet Sir William Watson (1858 – 1935)


Wood End Farm – which is being marketed as appealing to those with equestrian interests – is for sale through the Harrogate office of Strutt & Parker.


‘The Ballad of Semerwater’ by Sir William Watson

Deep asleep, deep asleep,

Deep asleep it lies,

The still lake of Semerwater

Under the still skies


And many a fathom

Many a fathom

Many a fathom below,

In a king’s tower and a queens bower

The fishes come and go


Once there stood by Semerwater

A mickle town and tall;

Kings’s tower and queen’s bower

And the wakeman on the wall.


Came a beggar halt and sore:

“I faint for lack of bread!”

Kings tower and queen’s bower

Cast him forth unfed


He knocke’d at the door of eller’s cot,

The eller’s cot in the dale.

They gave him of their oatcake,

They gave him of their ale.


He cursed aloud that city proud,

He cursed it in its pride;

He has cursed it into Semerwater

There to Bide


King’s tower and queen’s bower,

And a mickle town and tall;

By glimmer of scale and gleam of fin

Folk have seen them all.

King tower and queen’s bower,

And weed and reed in the gloom;

And a lost city in Semerwater,

Deep asleep till Doom.



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