Jill Thorp: Why there's nothing smart about being stranded on a motorway

The saying “like ships in a night” seems to be particularly apt for Paul and I at the moment as our paths cross briefly, early morning or late at night.

Jill Thorp

As John-William and I return from summer camp with Bren, his pony, we do a quick turn around, restock the wagon and head south to the Malvern hills for the National Pony Society Championships.

As much as I love this show, the last big one of the season for us, I dread the inevitable traffic and endless queueing on the motorway as Birmingham nears.

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I find it particularly stressful on the so-called smart motorways that have done away with the hard shoulder. I can’t think that there’s anything very smart about being stranded on a motorway with animals on board and unable to get out of traffic’s way

Paul meanwhile is on the last leg of the mammoth task of clipping, rounding up the waifs and strays.

His favourite breed, the Herdwick, seems to be well versed in the art of free ranging, expressing their right to roam far and wide, much to Paul’s immense chagrin. Masters of camouflage, they also seem to be rather good at blending in.

Despite doing a thorough gather and sometimes a second sweep to check no-one has been missed, we’re always short on the Herdwick count.

The following day, there they are, happily grazing, not a care in the world, right where we’d gathered the day before.

We seem to have got off lightly with the torrential rain and subsequent flooding of many areas. Not the best time to be having work done on your roof, but a few dripping ceilings are nothing compared to the sheer misery that others are enduring.

In North Yorkshire, farmland has been submerged, animals displaced and bridges swept away. With over a month’s rain falling in just a few hours, it’s not surprising that livestock has been lost and this winter’s fodder destroyed. To the south of us, homes were evacuated due to damage to a reservoir dam wall.

Quite often, visitors to Stott Hall are distinctly uncomfortable with the approach to the farm. The road sweeps down under the huge looming Boothwood dam wall, holding back many millions of litres of water.

During some cold snaps in the winter months, as the water is blown over the lip of the dam wall, it freezes, creating a huge frozen, glistening waterfall. It’s a spectacular site, but I can understand people’s anxiety.

With this years harvest fast approaching, our annual straw run down to an arable farm at Doncaster is almost upon us. We buy 200 acres from behind the combine, bale it and haul it home.

Despite having to take all our equipment down there and the difficulty of chasing the weather that far from home, it’s an arrangement we’ve had for the last 25 years and one that works well. The added bonus of course is that it keeps my ponies in deep, luxury bedding all year round!