COCKERMOUTH sheep breeder Neil Marston was crowned champion for the second year in a row in the North of England Mule Sheep Association classes at this year’s Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh.

Neil, who runs the Highberries Bluefaced Leicester flock at Millstone Moor, took the highly coveted title with his first prize ewe lamb.

Neil, who farms in partnership with his parents, Raymond and Francis Marston, says the ewe lamb, like his 2018 RHS ewe lamb victor, is by the home-bred Bluefaced Leicester ram, G1 Highberries Highlander, named after it had been crowned male champion as a ram lamb at the Royal Highland.

Long-standing NEMSA member Neil, who was securing a memorable hat-trick of RHS Mule titles – he also won it in 2012 - is passionate about sheep breeding. He first started with North of England Mules in the 1990s, establishing his BFL pedigree flock in the late 90s and moving to Millstone Moor in 2008, when he started concentrating on breeding Mules.

He currently runs 1,700 ewes, predominantly Swaledale, and 40 Leicesters.

This year’s RHS did, in fact, prove the best to date for Cumbrian North of England Mule sheep breeders and further afield attracting a record 69 entries, including seven new faces, in the four show classes, comprising 35 ewe lambs, 19 hoggs and lambs, seven geld hoggs and five ewes and lambs.

Standing reserve champion with a ewe and pair of lambs at foot was Phillip and Denise Elliott, of Mungrisdale. They had a great show, also finishing first and third in the geld mule hogg show class, and runner-up and a sixth place in the mule hogg with single lamb out of a class of 16. This was the second win for the reserve champion ewe bought at Hexham as a gimmer lamb, and the family’s third time reserve champion win in a row.

“We were proud to come home with the reserve champion and to get a prize with everything that we took to the show. It makes all the hard work worthwhile,” said Denise.

It was also a top day for up-and-coming show woman Julie Brough, of Langrigg, Wigton, who won the Mule hogg with lamb show class and runner-up in both the geld Mule hogg and shearling/ewe with pair of lambs classes.

In the ewe lambs, Messrs Waugh, of Kilnstown Farms Ltd, Bewcastle, took a second, and completing the prizewinners with third place in the Mule hogg with single lamb class was John Ackerley, of Milton Mains, Brampton.

“Congratulations must go to all exhibitors for a fantastic show,” said NEMSA’s chairman Kevin Wilson.