Footage from Yorkshire Film Archive
As part of his 1980s Yorkshire Television series Clegg’s People, livewire naturalist Michael Clegg visits what may be the country’s most strangely located farm.
1. Michael Clegg greets us from a windswept moor in West Yorkshire. But what’s that noise?
2. The romantic illusion is shattered somewhat, as it’s revealed that Clegg is in fact standing on the edge of the M62 motorway.
3. Sandwiched incongruously between its traffic-packed lanes sits Stott Hall Farm, home of Ken and Beth Wild.
4. Here’s Ken taking a turn around his land, seemingly oblivious to the articulated lorries thundering by.
5. Rumours have abounded about how the farm evolved into the rather bizarre entity it is today — the most juicy being that Wild was holding out for substantial compensation, and that planners simply built the motorway around rather than through his property, as an act of revenge.
6. But Clegg here explains the marginally less interesting truth: “Ken and his father were able to hang on to their farmhouse… because the engineers found that a geological fault underneath made it more practical to leave the house alone rather than blast through and destroy it.”
7. Our presenter is extremely excited to discover a plaque commemorating the opening of the local reservoir: “A little bit of history. When somebody finds this in a thousand years, they’re going to be fascinated.”
8. Enjoying the Pennines weather. The region’s high rainfall allows plants like the Soft Rush we see here to thrive.
9. “We are polluting Sweden, would you believe, and Norway – the acid in our rain is dropping on them and rotting their public buildings and eroding their ancient monuments.” Clegg’s musings in the film are at times strangely poetic.
10. Clegg sits down with the Wilds to discuss how life has changed since the motorway was built. “What about accidents? You must get a fair few?”, he asks, with what seems like barely contained glee.
11. The couple reminisce about the time they woke early one morning to find a 32-foot lorry lying upside-down in their garden.
12. Ken laughs nervously as he describes other frankly horrific-sounding incidents: “Last week we had a chap came through the fence just behind here – he’d had a heart attack and landed in the field, you know… died at the wheel.”
13. The farm also functions as a kind of emergency service station, with stranded motorists visiting after breaking down or running out of oil.
14. Clegg enjoys a little down time with a pair of border collies, Ken’s most valuable employees.
15. And now for the clear highlight of Clegg’s visit: a meet-and-greet with the various breeds of sheep who live here.
16. The pair disagree about the proper name for this chap — Ken calls it a Woodland Whitefaced, whereas Clegg insists it’s a Penistone. “It’s a matter you can argue about for months”, apparently.
17. This little lady is a Herdwick, a Lake District shape. They’re very dark at birth, but their faces become lighter as they age.
18. A confession from Clegg: “As you’ve probably gathered, I’m fairly potty about sheep, and this is a real treat for me, to get close to three of the real interesting breeds.”
19. Perhaps we should just leave you to it, then.
20. The herd travels under the lanes of the M62, via a purpose-built underpass. Perfect for whenever you need to make a hasty retreat from an over-exuberant TV presenter.
The film and stills on this page are taken from Britain on Film, a digital archive of UK places that mean the world to you. 10,000 film and TV titles from 1895 to now will be digitised and can be watched for free on BFI Player.
Britain on Film is funded by the National Lottery funding and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
The Farm on the Motorway is courtesy of the Yorkshire Film Archive