The couple who have never lived more than 200 yards apart and created a Longhorn cattle dynasty

David and Angela Blockley’s multi-award winning pedigree herd of Longhorn cattle doesn’t just take centre stage in the breed classes in Harrogate each year, it also produces the beef enjoyed at the Red Lion in Burnsall, run by Angela’s nieces. Proof that rare, heritage breeds such as the Longhorn can perform, not just as an animal of distinctive appearance but as tasty beef.

Angela and David Blockley with their Longhorn cattle

This was the animal that launched the concept of ‘breed’ rather than what had been known previously as ‘local type’ when breed pioneer Robert Bakewell of Dishley in Leicestershire sought to produce the ideal commercial animals of the 18th century. The Longhorn was particularly prevalent across north Lancashire, southern Westmorland and, highly appropriately given the location of the Red Lion, in the Craven district of Yorkshire.

Bakewell travelled the length and breadth of the UK sourcing the best stock he could and particularly liked the Craven local type for its large frame, length in body, longevity, docility, calving ease and mothering ability. Sadly, the Longhorn, having been crossed with other local types of what were completely different breeds, was superseded in terms of mass popularity and in particular by the Shorthorn that went on to spawn many other breeds that we know today, but the breed has survived and families such as the Blockleys are ensuring its place in the ring and on the table. Twelve Longhorn breed titles at the Great Yorkshire Show since first appearing with their Southfield herd in 1995, the twelfth having been won by Southfield Lace and shown by grandson Harry in 2019, is a record very few others can match across any breed at any show.

The show is a family tradition for David that stretches back to his father’s day. Ernest Blockley was a coal merchant, wholesale butcher, cattle dealer and horse breeder in Drighlington, or ‘Drig’ as locals such as David and Angela refer to it, and showing Shire horses and Dales ponies was his passion. “He never missed a Great Yorkshire Show,” says David. “When he was in the Army he’d save up his ‘leave’ to go and I remember him talking about going when it was held in Wakefield (1949), in the days before the show had its permanent home in Harrogate.”

David and Angela have known each other all their lives. They have never lived more than 200 yards apart as Ernest’s small 20-acre farm was so close to Angela’s parents, Thomas and Mary Manby’s much more substantial 120-acre dairy farm that became a beef operation when they came out of milk in 1972. “I didn’t like travelling too far courting,” says David, with his customary smile and grin. “I used to go to Angela’s parents to get a can of milk. We started courting in 1974 and married in 1976.”

“We never had a plan to get to where we have with the Longhorns or anything else,” said Angela. “Everything just happened. David always came down and helped on my parents’ farm and he became a mechanic working with Volvo trucks at Birkenshaw about a mile and a half away. I’ve always worked on the farm.

I’ve never done anything else.” “I left Crossroads Commercials in 1980 and started on my own repairing trucks and handling recovery work from one of Angie’s parents’ barns,” said David. “They were a tremendous help and I still have some of the same customers today that I started with back then.

Today there are just four of us in the business, including our son Richard. Our work is roughly half-and-half between truck repairs and maintenance and recovery work.” The couple moved within ‘Drig’ to where they live today at Southfield Farm in 1982-83.

“It was very small, nothing like it is now. The man who had it before us was a coal merchant and the yard was a coal yard. The property was a two-bedroom bungalow.

We struggled but we bought it and over the years we’ve extended our home to four bedrooms. “We have 15 acres here and when our neighbouring farmer has taken his first cut for silage off the adjoining 25 acres, we use that for grazing the cattle. “All together with other parcels of land, with one near to Junction 27 on the M62 just down the road, we have 75 owned acres.”

“We’ve always had horses as Angie has always ridden. Our daughter Louisa took supreme champion at the Barnard Castle Dales Pony Show at just nine years old with a pony my dad gave her. Dad gave Dales ponies to all of his grandchildren too.”

The move to cattle, which brought about the need for greater acreage, came initially from Angela’s love of farming. She had always been around cattle. “I’ve always liked them,” said Angela. “We started with one or two commercials before then taking on British Whites.

I’d always liked Longhorns but there weren’t a lot about and there weren’t very many good ones. “We got our first cow from the rare breed sale at Stoneleigh in September 1991, which was from over the border into Scotland; and two more from the York rare breed sale – those were from herds in Yorkshire. We borrowed a bull from John Backhouse’s Raincliffe herd in Scarborough.

After that it just seemed to snowball. “We’ve had up to 80-head, currently we have 55 including young stock. There are 22 cows.

All we want to do is keep breeding good cattle for showing, sell to other pedigree buyers and supply The Red Lion. My sister, Liz, had the pub but tragically died three years ago from cancer. Liz’s daughters run it now.

“Last year was the best the breed has ever had for publicity.

We held our national show at the Great Yorkshire; and we showed at Lincolnshire Show and the Great Yorkshire with breed champion at both.

Our bull Southfield Cunard won at Lincoln; and cow Southfield Lace won for Harry at Harrogate.

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