It is the marathon sheep sale where millions are made.

This astonishing sight of more than 18,000 lambs packed into pens at Lazonby Mart yesterday, stretching as far as the eye could see, are waiting to go under the hammer at one of the UK’s biggest sheep sales.

The spectacle was caught as thousands of Mule gimmer lambs were inspected by potential buyers from across the country.

Normally the sale of some of the finest sheep in the land would attract serious crowds from all regions, enticing sheep buyers as well as tourists.

But this year, due to Covid-19, social distancing rules were in force at the mart, and buyers only were allowed around the historic mart ring.

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 auction’s reputation has spread nationwide, attracting buyers from the top of Scotland right down to Cornwall.

The highlight in the calendar of North Pennines sheep farmers and breeders, the Alston Moor sale is one of 15 sale days held by the seasonal Harrison and Hetherington-operated mart, whose history dates back decades.

It has been described by locals in the past as ‘the harvest of the fells’.

In a nine-hour marathon, it was expected millions of pounds worth of Mule gimmer lambs would be sold.

Harrison and Hetherington auctioneer James Little said yesterday: “The Alston Moor sale is a real showcase.Things are good. We are expecting a nice trade.”

“One of our customers described it as a ‘the Mecca of the Mule ewe lambs sales in the North,” added Mr Little.

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