We put our first farm gate in nearly thirty years ago when we moved from the suburban wilderness to the richly endowed countryside. We knew we’d bought the track, but it leads through some 25 acres of sheep grazing land so some sort of conveniently movable barrier (as opposed to the ramshackle pieces of corrugated roofing sheets the ‘farmer’ had placed) would be required for our access.
We hoped we might, some day, be able to afford a strong and secure cattle grid, but until then, a £100 gate seemed the most appropriate solution. Nearly thirty years later, we’re still opening the gates (now two, since we don’t like the raggedy old sheep coming in and munching on our nice new grass and flowers up at the top, and littering the place with their poos!) when we arrive or leave, and closing them after us, as good adherents to the County Code.
We’d hoped to be able to purchase at least one cattle grid, to make our arrivals and departures that much more convenient, but after a few altercations with the sheep ‘farmer’ over our continuing repairs to our track, we decided to leave well enough alone — we’ve gotten along okay, wasting five minutes on each outward or inbound journey, so far, so a few more days of our lives lost in wasted time, by the time we shuffle off, aren’t going to hurt, in the grand scheme of things. In the early days, we realised that the gates were an ideal chore for the children, though they did get rather tired of my beeping horn ‘joke’, thereby saving at least two minutes on our entire track journey. After all, when it’s just a driver, say, to do the honours, the entire process goes like this: 1. Stop — hand-brake; open door; open gate; return to car; drive through. 2. Stop — hand-brake; open door; close gate; return to car; drive to the next gate. 3. Repeat Step 1. 4. Repeat Step 2, driving on to the main road.
So the annual removal of the heavily pregnant ewes to their delivery suite on a different patch, was the occasion a couple days ago of some rejoicing. If you don’t have to open and close two farm gates on your daily journey out, and again on your return, you’ll not really understand what it feels like not to have to do it. It feels like freedom, to be frank, sailing down the track and out onto the road with no interruptions save slowing down for a pretend-limping lapwing, or a strutting cock pheasant. I felt a dizzy little wave of euphoria sweep up my back this afternoon, as I drove down to pick up the post, and back with news of our pension particulars, with no gates to interrupt my progression. Bliss!
Indeed, with rather more bonhomie than we’ve been shown for several years, the ‘farmer’ has declared that the sheep will be off the front section, through which the track traverses, for up to six months! We’ll feel absolutely spoiled by that time, and the groans when the gates are shut again to keep the creatures within, will probably be heard all the way to Killhope!
Until then, we’ll happily bide our time, dreaming of useful cattle grids, which we’ll probably install along with some more commensurately useful track maintenance, just before we eventually sell the place and move into a nice home closer to the amenities. We’ll install the gate off to one side, of course, so that the livestock can enter the field conveniently too.
Somehow though, I rather hope that our grandsons will both be old enough to be inveigled to do the gate honours, before we have to leave the old place — that would feel so wonderful, and I promise I’d only do the beeping horn joke the once, just to see if it still works!