Sheep racing in Baaarnsley

28 May 2012

The excitement of Royal Ascot is set to come to Barnsley to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – but with racing sheep rather than horses. 

Staff at Cannon Hall Farm have organised nine days of Royal Ascot-themed racing over the Jubilee holiday but featuring woolly jumpers instead of thoroughbreds.

The attraction, at Cawthorne, has taken sheep racing to a new level after it was introduced last year and became an instant hit.

Director Richard Nicholson said:  “We pull out all the stops with our sheep racing and don’t think there’s another permanent course like ours anywhere else in the country. Over the Jubilee holiday we’ll be running lots of races so anyone who hasn’t seen the sheep in action before has plenty of opportunities to do so.”  

Cannon Hall Farm has trained 20 sheep to take part in the races which feature live commentaries and a ‘bookies’ kiosk where visitors can choose a sheep to cheer on and win prizes.

Richard added: “The sheep are fairly easy to train once they realise there is a food reward at the end of the race. It often surprises people that they are so willing to race and jump the fences so well. They aren't put off by crowds and are keen to race and get their food treat.”

The sheep racing will take place every day between June 2 and 10, with races every hour, on the hour, from noon to 4pm.  Farm workers will also be demonstrating sheep shearing each afternoon at fifteen minute intervals.

In addition, the attraction is also launching a new ‘Farm Safari’ tractor and trailer ride during the Jubilee holiday when families can travel through the fields and see Highland cattle, llamas and other farmyard animals. Rides cost £2 per person. Other Jubilee children’s activities will run throughout the holiday. 

Last year almost quarter of a million people visited Cannon Hall Farm, an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year’s visitor numbers.

The attraction opened a new £500,000 outdoor children’s playground, with a climbing forest and tube maze, and recently gained planning permission for £5 million worth of further developments over the next three years. These include a new farmyard and indoor play area as well as an extension to its tearoom and a new farm shop.

In May, the farm held its first ferret races and is considering making them a permanent attraction like the sheep races.

For more information about the farm call 01226 790427 or visit


To arrange further pictures or filming, contact Robert Nicholson at Cannon Hall Farm on 01226 790427.

Additional media contacts: Deborah Wain on 07903 466228 or at or Kate Betts on 01226 766900 or 07792 764891 or at

For hundreds of years Cannon Hall Farm was home farm to the Cannon Hall Estate.  The estate was sold by the Spencer Stanhope family in 1957 when Robert Nicholson’s grandfather Charles paid £7,100 for land and buildings.  Around the same time the hall itself was bought by Barnsley Council and turned into a museum.

Robert’s father Roger took over the farm when Charles died and, from the 1980s, it was developed for visitors. Roger and wife Cynthia are still involved in the business, along with Robert and other sons Richard and David.

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