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24 September 2014

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Paul Thorp on Stott Hall Farm
Paul Thorp on Stott Hall Farm

Farming in the fast lane

Anyone who's driven on the M62 between Manchester and Leeds will have seen the farm in the middle of the motorway and wondered: what's it doing there? And is it, as most people believe, a monument to stubbornness? Find out more

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On the border between Lancashire and Yorkshire, slap bang in the middle of the motorway is Stott Hall Farm. Known to the truckers as ‘the little house on the prairie’ it's possibly the most famous farm in the land. But what’s it like living there?

Its sole occupant is Paul Thorp, a sheep farmer with just his dogs for company and 2,000 acres of land. Living 20 yards from the fast lane has its ups, downs – and near misses - as Paul reveals.

"It has its moments. We’ve had a few visitors over the fence. They’ve put a crash barrier up to stop 'em, but before my time a wagon came through knocked the wall down landed on its side touching the garden wall. We’ve had plenty of accidents wagons and cars stuff coming through fence not that often but enough.”

Urban myth

Farmer Paul Thorp
Farmer Paul Thorp

Work began on what would become the highest stretch of motorway in Britain back in the 1960s. Today, most people driving past believe the farmer at that time refused to move off his land so the carriageways were built around him.

But is it true? Or is it an urban myth? Paul explains:

"It weren’t a matter that he wouldn’t sell the land for the motorway: he didn’t own the land, he’s only a tenant farmer. It was because of the geography of the land. The westbound carriageway’s a lot higher than the eastbound and they couldn’t get the two to sit together that’s why it parts. So it was only geography that saved the place. If they’d have wanted it they’d have taken it."

Farmer wants a wife

But making Stott Hall Farm attractive to the opposite sex has proved difficult.  Every weekend, Paul's mum Ros comes over to the farm to make the Sunday lunch, and while she’s there does the cooking, the shopping, the washing and the ironing. She says he could do with a wife:

"It's got good views, nice scenery, you can see for miles, and watch everyone hurtling past and think how lucky you are you’re not stuck in a car."
Paul Thorp on the plus side of Stott Hall Farm

"Paul’s had lots of girlfriends but when they find out he’s a farmer and he brings them here and they see what there is to do I think sometimes it’s a bit off putting maybe it’s too far out or it’s off putting I don’t know."

"It’d be a lot less work for me if he got one and it’d be nice to have a daughter in law.”

Paul admits it can be a lonely place: "I guess you don’t want to be on your own all the time. It’s just a bit of a bleak place to bring somebody out in the wilds, all that traffic round you, and you’re a long way from anywhere – two miles from the nearest village. The postman only comes to the bottom of the hill and some days you won’t see anybody except those zipping past on the motorway – apart from people ringing you might not see anyone else to talk to.

"I just need someone who likes the outdoor life to have a breakdown outside and then come round!"

On the plus side...

M62: pastures new?

Despite the modern world speeding past his front door, Paul is happy to ensure the tradition of sheep farming at Stott Hall endures.

"It’s not a job, it’s a way of life," he says. "You wouldn’t do it for a wage 'cos you’ve to put too much time in just normal hours time - you’ve got to want to do it."

"But on the plus side, I don’t have any commuting to do, I’m up in the morning straight out the door and to work, good views, nice scenery, you can see for miles, and watch everyone hurtling past and think how lucky you are that you’re not stuck in a car."

last updated: 02/02/07
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