Margaret reaches special day

Margaret Sunderland  - and her young charge - at Grain Farm
Margaret Sunderland - and her young charge - at Grain Farm

Frequently when reporting on someone’s completion of 45 years of work, they are retiring.

But in the case of Margaret Sunderland, while she may be taking things a little easier, she will definitely be carrying on!

Margaret, nee Cheetham, who is 65 on Saturday, has spent 45 years very much in partnership with her husband Miles, 71, at their home and business, Grain Farm, at Crimsworth Dean valley above Hebden Bridge.

Farming is in Margaret’s blood - she grew up on her parents’ - John and Mary’s - farm at Broad Carr, in the shadow of Stoodley Pike, Todmorden, with her three sisters, Anne, Mary and Marjorie, and brother John.

She went to Shade and then Scaitcliffe Schools in the town before beginning her working life at Thornber’s hatchery, where she worked for five or six years.

When she met and married Miles - at Mankinholes Chapel in 1971 - Margaret worked as a weaver for around four years at Pecket Well Mill, nearby to Grain Farm, but after that the couple have worked their sheep farm, raising their family - son Edward, 38, father of their three-year-old grandaughter May, who live in Reading - and daughter Emma, 37, who has just returned to the UK after working for ten years in Guatemala in Central America.

It is an ongoing countryside life she has always enjoyed.

“I love the life that I have had - when I married Miles I was used to it, I was involved in the farming life.

“I used to walk across from the Pike, along the canal and back to the valley to see him,” she said.

Working a sheep farm has been hard but enjoyable work, round-the-clock at lambing time. “You need to be fit and healthy,” she said.

Margaret has always kept busy, with a range of hobbies and interests.

“I like walking, reading and knitting, love gradening and baking and have always had an interest in the countryside,” she said.

She and her sister Anne have a competition - who can see the first swallow of spring and who can hear the first cuckoo.

Her oatmeal biscuits are a speciality and after marrying Miles she has developed her own version of the Calder Valley delicacy Dock Pudding, although she does not take it to competition.

“Also we have a young sheepdog at the moment, and I enjoy training it.”

She met Miles at the clay-pigeon shooting club he was a member of at Cockhill, and they have done much together.

In particular, they share an interest in homing and enjoy keeping their racing pigeons.

Margaret wanted to raise somke money for the Macmillan cancer charity and the couple bred and sold racing pigeons which raised £4,480 at auction for the charity, being featured in British Homing World magazine in the process.

Margaret said: “We did it together and sold a batch of quality racing pigeons, raising money for Macmillan’s palliative care team.

“Miles’s dad had been ill with cancer and the nurses did a fantastic job,” she said.

For his part, Miles remains devoted to his wife and as she reached a landmark birthday, after which they will carry on their partnership at the farm as well as through life, wishes her a very, very special day indeed.