Over the stable door: Little chance of escape from trenches and trees

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At the moment, I walk out of my backdoor in to something that resembles the Western Front. Lines of deep muddy trenches zigzag across the yard and up the driveway dug out by the builders in order to lay the necessary utilities for the barn conversion next door. Mounds of stones, earth and mud lie next to craterous holes.

The builder explained the work was likely to cause some disruption for a few days so I was prepared. A few days has turned in to a few weeks and no one seems to be in a hurry to return the place to normal.

My electric is turned off at inopportune moments. If we don’t keep resetting the timer on the boiler we have no heating or hot water when we get in from work at night. The delay, I’m told, is due to a problem with locating the gas pipe. The builder’s plans differ from my father’s recollection of where the pipe was originally laid decades ago. Heated discussions have ensued resulting in the workmen digging further holes around the house. Cobble stones and tonnes of dirt which lie beneath them are piled high outside my back door. Negotiating a path to the stable yard is virtually impossible after dark. Trying to avoid stumbling into trenches carrying armfuls of tack or buckets of sheep feed is an art.

Earlier this week I went out to do the late evening stable check with a pile of fresh laundry for the tack room. I tripped over a stack of cobble stones in the darkness. The washing and my face landed in a heap on the concrete, everything I carried was caked in muddy water and blood from a graze on my chin. I understand the work is vital but it really couldn’t have come at a worse time of year.

Lugging arms of washing to and from the tack room is a nightly duty in winter. Nothing dries when it gets cold. We use towels under the horse’s saddle pads to soak up the sweat, their legs are washed and dried thoroughly after exercise to avoid catching mud fever, exercise sheets get soaked in the rain or mud from the gallops. It all makes for one big heap of wet, dirty washing every day. Drying everything is an issue. Overnight frost leaves them solid enough to stand up on their own the next morning. On a murky day, everything out of the farm washer ends up hung above my Aga – not ideal when trying to cook the evening meal. The horse hairs sneak everywhere.

The building work alone probably wouldn’t bother me. The other distraction comes every December when my front garden turns into a home for 1,200 Christmas trees. My mother and brother have run their Quality Christmas Trees business for over 10 years from Brookleigh.

Hordes of people arrive full of festive cheer to choose their tree every day. It is a winter wonderland and creates a lovely atmosphere in the garden but living with it for six weeks outside the living room window grows increasingly tiresome. Call me a grumbling unappreciative woman and you would be right.

I think I have just had enough at the moment. There is no privacy, I cannot escape anywhere to switch off and do my work, the carpets are full of mud and pine needles from people trailing in and out.

Out of every window there is a crush of trees, people, machinery, cars and mud – piles of it. My only haven comes on the hunting field where I can forget it all for a few hours.