The worry and stress he feels about returning to the classroom has somewhat soured his last week at home.
I was dismayed to discover that due to a huge growth spurt, the majority of his school uniform is hopelessly outgrown and the puppy has seen his school shoes off following a couple of hours of unnoticed chewing after she’d sneaked them into her crate.
A panicked online order revealed most of what we needed was unavailable. Secretly, I feel as sad about his return as he does.
It’s hard to relinquish his freedom, his carefree lifestyle filled with his beloved animals. The thought of four walls and fractions fills him with dread. My head tells me he needs to return, to see his friends again. My heart, however, is singing a different tune.
From a practical point of view, the return couldn’t have come at a worse time. We’d hoped it would be after the Easter holidays, giving him several weeks to enjoy the highs of lambing time.
He has diligently tended to my Blue Faced Leicester ewes all winter, feeding and bedding.
I often find him kneeling down in the straw, his eager little hands clutching a ewe’s fleece, ear pressed tightly against her bulging side. The endless chats he has with them, now all named and overly friendly, are heartwarming to witness.
Morning and night he has battled through the heaving bodies to get to the feed troughs. Normally a place of calm, contented ewes, happily accepting his constant presence and hugging, their pen becomes a veritable no man’s land when the bucket of corn appears. But he has stuck at it. It seems desperately unfair that after all his dedicated care he will not be there to welcome the lambs into the world.
In an attempt to raise his slumped little shoulders, I’ve kept him busy. He has built a superb bird box, now residing in a tree down the drive and has taken it upon himself to re-train Paul’s overly keen sheep dog.
We’ve walked for miles across the moors with Sam in tow, safely anchored to John-William’s side. We’ve explored the gullies and steep sided cloughs of the mighty Deanhead valley.
Laying flat on our tummies, hiding amongst the tussocks, we’ve watched our wild Herdwicks grazing the steep slopes. We’ve paddled in the streams, and finally, we’ve sat in silence and watched with joy as the first curlew has soared over our heads.
As the sun went down towards the end of a magical and memorable day, we sat together next to Ken, the former tenant at Stott Hall Farm. His resting place sits in a lofty position, high above the heather clad slopes, the valley where he spent the majority of his life spread out beneath him.
Away from the motorway, the place has an ethereal quality, grand and majestic, yet humbling in its raw simplicity. There is nowhere else on the farm that can soothe the soul and whisk away your worries quite like Deanhead can.