Sheep-shearers are a dying breed, but Ashley Story relishes the back-breaking work which takes him all over the globe.
Ashley Story first held a pair of clippers when he was 12 years old.
‘My father provided the footings for my career. He clipped his own sheep when he was younger and taught me as soon as I was old enough,’ he explains.
Mr Story was 19 when he started clipping sheep professionally and the job has taken him all over the world, to the Falkland Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark and Norway.
‘I like meeting new people and seeing different parts of Britain and the world,’ he enthuses. ‘We begin the season in early May in Worcestershire, then work our way up to Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders. After that, we go abroad.’
No one ever said that shearing was an easy job. On a good day, Mr Story and his fellow shearer (he always works with one other person) clip as many as 300 to 400 sheep, often working long days, sometimes seven days a week.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that the next generation isn’t that keen on the career. ‘There’s a definite lack of young shearers coming along, but then I suppose not every-one is cut out for hard work,’ Mr Story laments. He’s also conscious that, as a profession, sheep-shearing doesn’t attract the recognition it deserves. ‘In other countries, it’s a respected role,’ he asserts. ‘If you tell people over here what you do, they often don’t know what it involves.’
Mr Story is, however, confident about the future. ‘You can carry on shearing into your fifties and sixties if you look after yourself, but I’m saving up for the future. Farming is where my heart is.’
The British Wool Marketing Board runs sheep-shearing courses. Visit www.britishwool.org.uk/shearing
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