IT IS the marathon sheep sale where millions are made.

The astonishing sight of more than 18,000 lambs packed into pens stretching as far as the eye could see.

Every year hundreds of visitors head for the Alston Moor Sale near Lazonby to see some of the finest sheep in the land come under the hammer.

The market, which took place last Wednesday, has become a major event and entices sheep-buyers as well as tourists from the top of Scotland right down to Cornwall.

Auctioneer, James Little said the sale was the busiest he had ever seen.

In a 12-hour marathon, millions of pounds worth of Mule gimmer lambs were sold.

The gigantic sale brought together lambs from a number of different regions, with locally-raised lambs being auctioned from the Alston Moors and the Pennines.

The highly sought-after lambs are mainly from hill farms, giving them a glowing reputation for thriving when moved to other parts of the country. It is for this reason that the seasonal mart’s reputation has spread nationwide.

The village mart has been run by Carlisle-based Harrison & Hetherington for the past 12 years, and its history goes back many decades.

Enough pens have to be put in place to accommodate the huge number of lambs, as well as space for about 200 buyers and between 150 and 200 vendors.

Last year the sale of the all-purpose North of England Mule gimmer lamb, which remains Britain’s most prolific sheep breed in terms of numbers and also the country’s most popular commercial sheep, were particularly hard hit.

But this year Mr Little said Mule sales had reached the heady heights of 2017.

The evening prior to the sale, the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s (NEMSA) hosted its show, when the highly contested trophy for the champion pen of North of England Mule Lambs was awarded.

This year it was the turn of the Reed family, renowned sheep breeders from Westgate, near Alston, whose newly-crowned winning pen snatched one of the top prices of £280 apiece.

It was a good price and they were pleased.

“The sale averages were up by £5.54 and we had 100 per cent clearance,” said Mr Little.

“Fell lambs were up £10 a head. Last year was a bad year for the fell farmers because of the drought.

“Buyers know that these lambs are hardy coming from the high pastures.

“They fare very well on lowland farms.”