Saturday, 10 October 2020

Katie Willkomm milking Briony the cow

Katie Willkomm is a truly exceptional woman. She was born in Romania and spent many of her young years in one of Stalin's forced labour camps, before coming to England when she was 14 years old. She still retains a Romanian accent which mixes beautifully with the Yorkshire she has picked up since then.

For nearly sixty years she lived up at Fountains Farm, above the high hamlet of Booze in Arkengarthdale. It was a beautiful if rather wild and bleak location - one of the highest habitations in the Yorkshire Dales, no doubt. For many years she and her son Josef farmed that high and difficult land with sheep and cattle, battling against the elements and economics of upland dales farming life.

She and Josef recently gave up the tenancy of the farm to move down to a centrally heated home (luxury!) in Richmond. However, they still keep a smallholding going with a small flock of sheep, and a couple of cattle. Here, Katie can be seen milking Briony "the house cow".

Katie's story is told along with the stories of nearly eighty other people in my book of portraits and interviews with characters of the Yorkshire Dales, "Dalesfolk".