It was a new era at Ravenseat. For the past four years, a loyal fanbase has watched Amanda and Clive Owen raise their nine children and 1,000 sheep on Our Yorkshire Farm. The programme’s blend of family warmth, rugged shepherding and ravishing Dales scenery helped make it Channel 5’s highest-rated factual series. They were dubbed “the Kardashians of the countryside”. Now the bucolic dream has been put out to pasture.
After 22 years of marriage, the couple announced their amicable separation this summer, prompting the cancellation of the mothership show. New projects with Amanda are reportedly in development but for now, Clive has been pushed centre-stage. He never seemed quite so keen on the media attention, with charismatic former model Amanda always the driving force of the show. How would camera-shy Clive cope with headline billing?
Well, by cannily sharing the spotlight. For Beyond the Yorkshire Farm: Reuben & Clive (Channel 5), he teamed up with eldest son Reuben to help get the ambitious 19-year-old’s digging venture off the ground. This three-parter charts Reuben’s first year of trading as he ventured beyond the family’s remote Swaledale hill farm to drum up dirt-spattered business and make his own way.
As you might expect, this spin-off was markedly different in tone. With Amanda only glimpsed in flashback clips, it focused firmly on father and son. Clive and Reuben’s bond was lovely to behold, glowing with paternal pride and mutual respect. They’re Yorkshiremen, obviously, so there were no group hugs or mawkish outpourings. “Not so bad”, “good lad”, “grand” and the occasional fist bump were about as demonstrative as it got.
It was similarly understated with Reuben and girlfriend Sarah. Their shared passion for engineering and ease in each other’s company was enough to convey their sweet romance. “Lives in wellies, covered in oil: she’s perfect for him,” said Clive approvingly. Reuben reflected on how his “free-range” childhood equipped him for adult life. He’d “carried spanners as soon as he was big enough” and displayed early acumen by buying and selling tractors.
The opening episode followed his first summer in business. During the hottest August on record, Reuben was hired to dig wilderness ponds in Cumbria, so recruited Sarah and best mate Tom to help. Hi-vis suited and heavy-booted, the enterprising trio excavated tens of thousands of tonnes of soil, supporting each other every muddy step of the way. Well, with the odd break for arm-wrestling and good-natured ribbing.
Clive took time out of his busy shepherding schedule to cheerfully ferry them around. He was so impressed by their dedication, he took Reuben for a celebratory drink at their local, the Tan Hill Inn – at 1732ft (528m) above sea level, the highest pub in England – where Reuben bought his old man a pint for the first time. A rite of passage if ever there was. “It’ll be the first and last,” joked Reuben.
After a long, hot summer of mud, sweat and beers, the pair marked the success of Reuben’s fledgling firm by firing up lovingly restored John Fowler traction engines. Clive and Reuben’s boyish love of machinery and pride at steam-ploughing a field like their forebears was infectious..
This wasn’t what you’d call high-octane TV. Conflict was non-existent, jeopardy minimal. It chugged along instead to a soothing beat of hard work, warm camaraderie and whirring engines. God’s Own County looked as glorious as ever. Amanda's garrulousness was missed but the boys stepped up to fill the breach. Not so bad, lad, not so bad.