As recently as the 1970s College Valley supported an enterprise of 6700 hill ewes and 150 cows, looked after by a staff of 19.  The changing economic and environmental conditions over the intervening 50 years mean that the Valley is currently home to two hill farming businesses owned by tenants based at Hethpool and Elsdonburn.  Sheep numbers have declined below 2500, and cattle do not overwinter in the Valley any more.  Lambs from the estate are sold for breeding (for which they are highly prized) and for meat.

The highest area of the estate amounting to some 5500 acres is managed primarily to enhance and protect the very precious sub alpine botany to be found on the slopes of Cheviot.

These rare plant communities are the reason that some 2500 acres around Cheviot has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and this gives them robust legal protection.

To this end, on certain parts of this area cattle and sheep are brought in to graze in the summer only, returning to less harsh conditions in the lowlands for the winter months.  The grazing regime is designed to remove the competitive grasses which would otherwise swamp the more delicate vascular alpines.  Summer grazing was the way that the land was managed 200 years ago before the Victorian system of keeping sheep year-round in the Valley was introduced.

Furthermore, grazing only in the summer minimises damage to the rare plants by trampling by stock in the winter.


Caring for stock, especially in this environment, is a real vocation.  It calls for great skill, judgement, hard work and considerable fortitude.  Anyone doing it for money alone is destined for heartache and disappointment.

You can support the stockmen of our Valley by being patient if you encounter them moving their animals, and by keeping dogs well under control especially at lambing time.

Some of the cattle summering in the Valley have young calves at foot, and on safety grounds we would strongly advise visitors with dogs to stay away from them.  In particular please never approach any cattle with a dog on a lead, as this can be very dangerous indeed.

Please never be tempted to pick up and ‘rescue’ a solitary new born lamb, as its mother will almost certainly know where it is and may not accept it back after it has been handled.

Other things you may be interested in.

Mounthooly Bunkhouse

The perfect stay for those tackling the Pennine way, family gatherings, charity parties or wedding accommodation.

Dunsdale House

Relax in the beautiful house, situated at the foot of the Cheviot Massif.