A Grumpy Old Man’s Tale 47 Increasing Independence

A Grumpy Old Man’s Tale 47 Increasing Independence

~The Calm Before the Storm~

The cold, breezy showers typically associated with April were now a thing of the past. The weather had been dry for a week and a half, and the ground was considerably pleasanter to walk on than a week ago, but there were thunderclouds to be seen on the horizon to the east, and atypically early the air felt oppressively heavy and clammy. The odd flash of lightening had been seen at, or over, the horizon earlier in the day, being so high it was hard to judge their distance, but most of their attendant claps of thunder had been so attenuated by the distance as to be barely audible, some strikes weren’t even that being just a silent flicker caught by peripheral vision that couldn’t have been seen to reach the ground even if one had been looking in that direction. However, it was expected that Bearthwaite would receive a visitation from the twin gods of thunder and lightening sometime before midnight which was not entirely unusual in the second week in May. Spring was on its way out and summer was just around the corner. The frothy, pale cream, blackthorn blossom always the first massed display of the season was long gone, not even the last vestiges of the brown edged, dying, yet tenacious flowers still clung on, for none had survived the recent winds. Mind, as young Jessica in ecological mode had disdainfully said in February, “Whether one believes mankind’s insatiable greed is causing it or not, there has no longer been any denying the reality of climate change for some decades now. This season’s blackthorn started to blossom last October. Give it another few years and at this rate it’ll catch up with itself like a runner lapping the competition and it can start all over again having gained a year on itself.”

However, when the sun did manage to break through one of the rare cracks in the overcast it shone on the blinding, bridal white, hawthorn blossom, mostly in the hedges, which was in full bloom and hardly surprising as it was also known as May blossom. The birds were singing, albeit in subdued tones, and there was but the odd trace of frog spawn anywhere, most had hatched and many of the immature frogs and toads had started growing their front legs,(1) ‘So maybe,’ thought Violet, walking around the reservoir holding hands with Peter, ‘what’s left is addled, if that’s the the right word, and not going to hatch into frogpols.’(2) She focussed on the water and thought ‘That cluster over there looks to be toadpols. When I’m next down by the beck I’ll have to mind to look for eftpols too.’

“What are you frowning for, Violet? Something upsetting you?”

“No just thinking about about the tadpols. I reckon the spawn that’s left isn’t going to hatch, but I was wondering if addled is the right word. I think that cluster over there are toadpols not frogpols, because frogpols don’t usually form clusters for long. I was also thinking I want to look for eftpols in the beck.” Peter always took note of any unusual words or forms of speech and the new, to him, words that Violet had used were not only obvious in their meanings but useful too, so he made no remark concerning them.

All around the couple lambs were still bouncing about as if on springs leaving their sombre dams to the serious and absorbing annual task of providing them with their nourishment from the rather poor quality already close cropped sward. Some two or three dozen of the Pant Pedwar piglets that Violet could see in the distance were chasing each other repeatedly up and down the bright green of the grass covered small hillocks. A few of the hillocks failed to cover the larger underlying stones that gave their siblings their form and the occasional gray rounded and polished glacial erratic(3) that lay on the bedrock a couple of feet or so below could be seen to obtrude through the sward, one by over fifteen feet [5m]. Their dams, four huge creatures of the Gloucestershire Old Spot variety were lying down close to each other to share warmth and soak up what little was available from the thin spring sunshine. One of the sows though of the same lineage as the boar that was busy turning the sod over on the other side of the field was pure white so technically was not a Gloucester Old Spot because it was a breed requirement to have at least one dark spot be it however small. However her offspring were indistinguishable from those of the other three.

Sam Shaw had owned the farm and the pigs since before she and Gee her husband had been courting never mind married and she had said to Gee in explanation, “Brock, the boar, was damned expensive, and the woman I bought him off said she couldn’t bring herself to slaughter Blanche, the pure white sow, who was of zero commercial value as breeding stock because it is a breed requirement to have at least one black area no matter how small. Apparently a pure white animal is not common but it is well known. I said I’d take her too and breed from piglets for meat from her because I wasn’t particularly bothered. She is pure bred like the other three and so will carry the right genetics and any ways put to Brock who has more black spots than most her piglets will be typical of the breed. The woman said, ‘Good,’ and gave her to me. Blanche and Brock are sired by the same boar, but they had different dams. Blanche has had three litters now, and she’s never threwn a piglet with no black on it and there has never been a problem with any of her offspring. Bella, Babe and Bossy are all the same age as Blanche and have had three litters apiece too. I originally intended to keep a couple of sows and breed from six, but they all throw big litters, so I’ve changed my mind about keeping a pair.”

Sam and Gee’s adopted daughters, Michaela and Janine, who’d been rescued from a horrific life of abuse, had originated in rural Cornwall and despite their previous lives had never known anything other than country folks’ pragmatism towards livestock farmed to eat. Michaela had said, “The bacon from Blanche’s piglets will look and taste just the same as the bacon from the others.”

Janine had added, “There may be a bit of black rind on some of the rashers that aren’t there on others, but for sure the sausages will look and taste the same.”

Violet squealed with laughter as from the far side of the field Brock looked up from his endeavours turning the sod over and with a disinterested haughty gaze watched the leaders of the troop of piglets right wheel with the rest of their rabble following closely behind with a parade ground precision to pile onto the disturbed and disgruntled sounding sows in their search for sustenance. As the young couple watched it only took half a minute or so before order was restored. The sows now in two back to back pairs were lying on their sides with rows of piglets perpendicular to their dams looking like the teeth of scarcely moving combs, or so it seemed from the distance the couple were watching from. The only evidence of life was the odd piecing squeal that rang around the valley as the youngsters vied for position. As the young couple continued on their way their conversation returned to the model railway society that was their second favourite activity, their first being each other. They were yet again discussing their latest ideas for controlling the futuristic, spectacular stuff, the Heinlein stuff. Their commitment to not just HO scale(4) physically, but to HO scale as regards speed too had finally become a reality with some of their models moving at about twenty metres per second thus modelling mach five. They had yet to perfect the control mechanisms that would make the models moving at that speed go exactly where they wanted them to go which was a dangerous and serious issue for their Heinlein ring trains, though it threatened to make them disgustingly wealthy.

Similar scenes were being acted out by youngsters all over the valley eager, if not to make hay whilst the sun shone, to at least take advantage of the opportunities that being alone together outside in reasonable weather offered, whilst adults, though smiling at their offspring and grandchildren and their memories of youth too, were warily keeping one eye on the sky, and hurrying to complete any outstanding outdoor work before they were forced inside by what promised to be a spectacular amount of water falling from the sky. Many were hoping that when it fell, as was a certainty, it fell as rain and not sleet, for most had vegetables growing that would be severely set back by the cold, not so much by the sleet itself, but by the warmth it took out of the ground as it melted.(5) Sheep and cattle were placidly, and perhaps wisely, grazing close to the lee sides of hedges. Much of the wildlife had already sought shelter, though fish, and swallows too, were taking advantage of the banquet that the thick clouds of insects flying close to the various water surfaces in the valley provided. The ospreys with chicks to raise were enjoying the easy fishing that the conditions provided as were the herons and kingfishers.


Three days after her interview, to her great joy, a letter arrived informing Livvy that she had an unconditional acceptance to read veterinary science at Glasgow, with a full scholarship. She wasn’t aware of it, but she was following closely in the footsteps of Hamilton McDonald her mentor and the Bearthwaite veterinary surgeon. When the admissions secretary’s interview team had read their copies her application which had included what Hamilton had written about her, including her use of a twelve inch hunting knife to humanely put a bison bullock out of its misery which he’d said, despite its financial value, had had no chance of survival after having been hit by a delivery artic(6) going far too fast on the narrow, unmetalled lonning(7) into the village, it had opened their eyes to a potential senior government vet in the making, someone who had animal welfare as a priority, not a do gooder who wanted to work with animals who would end up watching an animal suffer before someone else made the hard decision and actually did the right thing. To find a youngster, especially a girl, – ‘Was that a sexist or a realist attitude?’ pondered Lillian the only woman on the team of three who would interview Livvy, – with both her intelligence and her pragmatic acceptance of reality who was both capable and willing to do something about such a situation immediately was very rare indeed and the interview team had been looking forward to meeting her. That Livvy clearly considered herself to be nothing out of the ordinary was to augment their opinions as to just how rare she was.

Livvy had made an excellent impression on all three of her highly qualified and perceptive interviewers as an intelligent, focussed and knowledgeable student with a wide and relevant experience upon which she could base her future studies. That she was clearly her own woman did her no harm in their opinions either. What had, in the eyes of the three folk making the acceptance decisions, set her apart from the other more typically well qualified applicants had been the incredible number of hours she’d spent with Hamilton and the even larger number of hours, days and nights, she’d spent on the fells(8) in all weathers since the age of five with her local shepherds during lambing. She’d kept logs of all her activities from a young age, for even then she’d known she’d eventually require them. The interviewers had scrutinised them carefully and concluded they had to be genuine for the hand writing and the content style matured as the dates moved forward in a way that they concluded reflected a child’s development. Hamilton had specifically stated that she had small yet powerful hands that were most useful for cows experiencing a difficult calving, of which he’d written she had extensive experience, especially with heifers calving for the first time. All of which was supported by her logs.

Her intense interest in and knowledge of not just main stream veterinary matters, but also matters that most considered to be barely germane to veterinary science, notably bees, fish, coneys and wildlife too, was unusual. Too, her fascination with that wildlife and all matters pertaining to rural life, including its economics, made her seem much older than her years. That she’d been involved in hunting coneys in order to feed her folk with ferrets and her lurcher since being a child, had used a four ten shot gun(9) for almost as long and latterly had bought a twelve bore(10) had convinced those involved in the selection procedure that she was definitely no shrinking violet and was what they were looking for. They were scarcely surprised when she said she’d held a licence for her three oh three(11) for deer since her eighteenth birthday.

Lillian had a brother who lived close enough to Bearthwaite to have heard all the talk that went around that part of the county about the valley and its residents. He had regularly discussed such Bearthwaite matters with his sister, and both of them had agreed a lot of the salacious and disparaging scuttlebutt was just so much hot air put about by persons who though they knew nothing wished to appear as though they did. Aware that the self liberation of Bearthwaite School from the oversight and rule of the widely hated Ofsted(12) to become Bearthwaite Education Establishment was seen by the nation to be remarkable and that their precedent setting mechanism had spearheaded many other schools to subsequently do likewise was something of national significance, meant anything to do with the place was of interest to him. All three interviewers had followed closely the media coverage of Bearthwaite’s court battles with the utility company and RSPB(13) much of which, especially the battle with the latter, had been based on ecological and animal husbandry principles, and a number of vets known to and respected by them had been used by Beebell(14) as expert witnesses.

That the Bearthwaite coöperative assets management organisation, Beebell, was held in such high esteem by so many world authorities on various aspects of wildlife management, animal husbandry and farming practice, all of who deemed that the style of land management adopted there was a model for rest of the developed world to follow had been as astonishing to the three interviewers as it had been to many academics of any number of disciplines. That Beebell’s directorate, the de facto informal and as yet legally unrecognised Council of Bearthwaite, had managed to integrate that model with a thriving eco tourist industry seemed remarkable, even more remarkable to them was that Livvy clearly did not consider it so, for to her it was just common sense. That that had seeped so deeply into every bone of her body since early childhood that Livvy had no need to understand it, for it had always been a part of her very being made her a very unusual young adult to all involved in the selection process. What had been a shock to them rather than a surprise had been Livvy’s total acceptance that she and all who lived at Bearthwaite were not apart from the flora and fauna that they shared their home with they were an integral part of their environment, just one of the many types of denizens of the valley, all of who were given respect and had their needs met in order that all could flourish.

When, in order to return her wide ranging conversation to what they were interested in, she’d been pressed more deeply by Angus, one of her interviewers, and reminded it was veterinary science she was applying for not ecology she’d said, “To me veterinary science, ecology, economics, and much else too, are just different aspect of an integrated whole. The needs of all must be met for all to flourish. In particular for vets to flourish it’s not enough for them to merely be good at their profession. Farmers, and pet owners too, have to earn enough to be able to pay their vets or all go hungry together. In particular that means farmers have to farm in such a way as to make money, which has been becoming increasingly challenging for many of them in recent years, and as a result many rural veterinary practices in every part of the country have disappeared. Farming along side wildlife in coöperation with it rather than in competition with it is of significant assistance in doing that. Put simply, it is cheaper and more efficient and so more profitable to farm that way, which means vets make a good living too.”

“Too, though the Covid lockdown was a boon in many ways for the residents of Bearthwaite in that it made us reëvalute the way we lived and encouraged us to go back to some of the more self reliant practices of our forbearers, it was a death sentence for numerous small local veterinary practices in Cumbria. I am aware of at least a dozen in my part of the county that are no longer in existence. I suspect that nationally hundreds maybe thousands just closed for good because they’d been on the verge of going out of business before Covid due to a lack of income, mostly because farmers weren’t earning enough to be able to afford to use them, and Covid was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Businesses are not like electric lights, where you can switch them off and then expect the lights to come back on when you go back and operate the switch again. Once shut down businesses are lost for ever.”

Seeing she was about to be questioned or even challenged on her statements concerning wildlife she added, “For a relatively simple to explain and understand example, in most places farmers have their hedges power flailed(15) into submission by taking them back to a damaged backbone of vertical sticks often less than two feet wide. They do both sides of the hedges every year. It is a Bearthwaite in joke said tongue in cheek that they do that so it looks tidy. We all know that tidy hedges and verges is an urban concept that is often at odds with a flourishing natural environment, so in the valley where I live the word tidy has become a subtle insult not understood by outsiders, a modern day kind of shibboleth if you like. Usually farmers pay contractors with massively powerful tractors to do the flailing. The way it’s done means the hedges never flower and so can’t bear fruit. In turn that means far fewer birds to control crop pests and far fewer bees and other insects available for pollination. Too, the flail shatters the ends of whatever it touches rather than producing a clean cut. That leaves branches much more susceptible to bacteria and fugal spores which often leads to dieback. That no seed is set means no new hedge plants can grow to naturally fill gaps created by the ones that have died.

“I’m used to seeing hedges two to three metres [6½ – 10 feet] wide that flower and bear fruit every year. They are excellent wind breaks for livestock to shelter behind and birthing sites of choice for many cows and ewes. Too, they are natural corridors for wildlife to move along from one piece of woodland to the next. They create a more balanced, wider based eco system supporting a greater diversity of species which ultimately benefits all, livestock, wildlife and the folk who live there, for there is food there for them too. Bearthwaite has a large group of women who make a good living from processing, bottling and selling hedge fruit products that sell well because they are not widely available. Some are not available from anywhere else. The Bearthwaite brewery and distillery makes a range of products based on hedge fruit, sloe gin, bullace brandy and brid(16) cherry vodka to name but three that sell well. Our children, as did I not so many years ago, collect wild nuts and fungi for a local market that buys everything they can collect including acorns that are used by the brewery, but they always plant a proportion of the nuts and leave a proportion of the fungi to sporulate. That is something our children are taught from their earliest days, and I can’t remember when I was not aware of its necessity.

“We also have a thriving bee keeping industry that provides employment for many, not just bee keepers. That would not be possible should our farmers farm in the way that outsiders do. Consider an extreme example, Lancashire. Bee keepers call it the great green desert, a vast dairying monoculture that only grows grass for cattle. The industrial agriculture there has created an ecological disaster in waiting, and once the collapse starts there will be no stopping it. I know many would disagree with me, but I won’t have to live there, so I won’t care. Many agricultural sprays kill not just bees, but many other beneficial invertebrates too. Of course they do no harm in Lancashire because there’re no invertebrates left there to kill. Sprays can be used beneficially in safety, but one needs to understand how and especially when to use them, else they reduce a farmer’s income rather than enhance it. The evidence is there for any to read in numerous government sponsored publications. Our farmers always seek veterinary and other advice before any spraying takes place, which is always provided free of charge, unlike in most other places.

“Each year, Bearthwaite farmers have a third of their hedges lightly flailed on one side only which maintains the hedge shape and gives the top of the hedge a narrowed shape to shed snow which prevents a snow build up from flattening and damaging the hedge to the point where it could potentially be no longer stock proof. The ground at the hedge foot is flailed too which prevents blackthorn suckers encroaching on arable land, though many are dug up by our tree nursery folk to provide additional hedging plants for land we own outside the valley much of which is in serious need of good husbandry. All the new land purchased by Beebell has always needed its hedges completely reëstablishing. The other side of the hedges is done three years later. One local contractor who is a local farmer himself and his sons and staff are enough to properly manage every hedge in the valley. That six year cycle is much cheaper than paying external contractors to flail both sides every year. External contractors who have no idea how to do the job properly because they are merely agricultural contractors who make the hedges and verges tidy rather than farmers who husband the land and all on it, which includes folk. Too, every weak calf or lamb that doesn’t die as a result of the shelter the hedges provide is money in the bank.

The interviewers exchanged brief speaking glances with at each other and a tacit decision was made to allow Livvy to talk, for used to interviewing they knew that way they would find out far more, far faster, about this particularly impressive candidate. They’d all made up their minds, but were seeking information with which to justify any subsequent challenges to their decision of which they knew there would be many, for this young woman was as impressive as a person as she was as a potential veterinary surgeon, and a number of her future lecturers would not be able to cope with that. They were all superb at their jobs, but some of them would without doubt be jealous of her personality, and resentful of her polite but not deferential attitudes towards and views concerning what she was passionate about. Given that they had the power to make her life difficult they would need to be kept under control. The three interviewing professors were enjoying themselves, for none of them could remember being so well entertained by an interviewee. Livvy had the views and exuberance of youth, intelligence to spare, a completely integrated approach to everything she had ever come across, and, though she had grown up not so far away, the culture she’d grown up in was even more different theirs, they were all Scottish, was from that of the English.

“Every thirty years or so the hedges are laid, and laid properly, by skilled men, and a few women too, who earn their living hedging and ditching and coppicing too. Everything that comes out of the hedges and the coppices, and all they cut comes out, has economic value and provides employment for many others. Nowt is piled in a heap and burnt. Certainly, laying hedges is expensive, but spread over thirty years it is near enough free, especially given the fuel and the employment it creates. The men do make some use of a modern powered flail as a tool to assist their work, but hedges prior to laying are not reduced to a row of sticks that couldn’t ever become stock proof as they are virtually all over Cumbria, and probably everywhere else too, but I don’t know that for certain. The flail is merely a tool to assist the job, the job is not done by the flail. It is done by those highly skilled men and women who use modern tools like a flail and chain saws where appropriate. They also make extensive us of centuries old tools like slashers, sickles, bill hooks, froes and beetles, which are all made locally. Too, because none of our centuries old hedges have been grubbed out to create larger fields the men have no end of work in sight and from time to time have to be assisted by coppicers and the like. I have been led to believe Bearthwaite is possibly the only place in the country where one can find apprentice hedgers and ditchers, coppicers and drystone wallers. Our high fell shepherds all have apprentices too.

“Most hedges these days offer no shelter, no fruit and they are definitely not stock proof. Farmers may as well grub them out and save the money, for they serve no purpose whatsoever. Actually I’ve just realised that’s not true they do serve a purpose, they provide something for the local authority jobsworths to do. The jobsworths who have no experience of any ground cover other than tarmac and concrete. The jobsworths who prosecute our farmers for removing the last remains of dead hedges that due to a century or more of neglect are well over their sell by date. Dead hedges that are not only mostly not there, but what little that is there between the long stretches of nowt comprises dead thorns, bramble, briar rose and ivy that need to removed so a complete reinstatement with new thorn plants and the necessary standard trees can be undertaken. Such abominations have not been hedges for decades, possibly a century and a half. I wouldn’t know because I’ve not been around that long. Those city bred jobsworths would be better employed labouring for our farmers on the land outside the valley we have recently acquired to gain some insight into rural economies, realities and life, but that’s a matter of politics not economics, and Bearthwaite folk don’t do politics. We all always vote, but spoil our ballots in such a way that they can never be claimed by any.

“However, there is no point in most so called hedges being there, for nationally they are just a multi million, if not a multi billion, pound burden that requires time and money spending on them that yields no benefit in return. Even worse they require the expense of a parallel barbed wire fence to keep stock in. Three strands of decent galvi barb runs to a quid a metre, and often sheep netting at around a pound a metre too is required. Decent tanalised posts(17) run at anything up to a fiver apiece, a five kilo bucket of fencing stapples(18) is about twenty quid and then there’s either the time or the labour cost. Posts and even galvanised wire both rot within a few years and have to be renewed far more frequently than a hedge needs relaid. And it’s all unnecessary, for even the stakes the hedges are laid round are products of the hedge itself. I’m used to seeing stock proof, shelter belt, laid hedges that I can’t see through with no posts and wire that provide fruit every year for humans and wild life alike.”

Livvy stated, “Usually the farmers I know, and I know all in the valley where I live because I have hunted and shot coneys and pigeons on their land since I was small, ask for advice on such peripheral matters, especially when new ventures are involved, and though I don’t know much about elsewhere, where I grew up local vets are their most trusted sources of information. When a number of our farmers were debating ploughing up their permanent pastures that were older than a millennium and sowing newer grasses like some of the Italian and perennial rye grasses and timothy because they would give greater yields of sillage and hay per acre they consulted Uncle Hamilton McDonald. He looked into it for them and opined it was not in their long term interests to do it, for most of the pasture that was used for hay was already at maximum stocking density for animal health and good land husbandry without having to resort to measures that would involve far more work, like moving livestock twice a week.

“He also pointed out the extra tonnage of grass would require bigger machinery to handle it, expensive machinery that meant they would never get out of the lease buy back schemes till their deaths, and their children would then inherit the problem. Many farmers elsewhere were working till they died because they could not afford to retire, and not a few were in dire straits when their bodies let them down when they were in their nineties. He asked them if that was what they really wanted. His clinching argument was that the permanent pasture they currently farmed not only gave them a rational work life balance it produced higher quality feed and gave them healthier stock with lower veterinary requirements. Stock which fetched premium prices at market and even though local prices were not as high the total deal was always better. That he was advocating a reduction in the money he would take off them was a telling point. Moreover, he said that if more feed was required it made more sense to allow someone else to do the work and buy it off them at a mart. Better yet, he said, to use some of the outside the valley Beebell land and if local farmers couldn’t do all the work then hire contractors working to Bearthwaite contractual terms, for we have a few folk who specialise in that sort of thing.

“It is true that it was one of our younger farmers who convinced his father to allow him and his brothers to restart the farm dairy that hadn’t been in use since not long after the second world war in order to sell value added dairy products and stop selling milk to the corporate dairy operating in our part of the country that pays next to nothing for milk. As an aside it is easy to check that milk is the cheapest liquid selt in supermarkets. How is milk able to be selt cheaper than bottled spring water? There is so little money to be made out of dairy cattle nowadays that all over the country as farmers retire or die their children just sell up. How can that be good for vets? The big supermarkets can’t meet demand for milk with UK milk any more because it’s no longer there to buy in the quantities they want. They are having to import it from Europe, and it’s their own fault. At Bearthwaite our dairy farmers broke out of that very successfully and none of our dairy farmers deal with the corporate dairy any more. Some specialise in cheese or yoghurt production, many sell their milk to the farm dairy I referred to which also wholesales whole milk and dairy products to any number of stores in the county, and retails it at the farm shop, but all our dairy farmers are making far more per litre than the corporate dairy will pay. However, it was Uncle Hamilton who asked since the tanker was no longer arriving before six to collect the milk why did they still get up in the middle of the night to milk. Surely he reasoned the cows would appreciate a lie in too. Our cows are now milked in the mornings between eight and nine and the farmers and their staff are no longer shift workers doing sixteen hour or longer days as a result of collaboration amongst many folk, a key one of who was our vet. The farmers believe their cows are more settled and yield more, though the evidence is as yet marginal.

“Some of our farmers kept old fashioned dairy breeds like Dairy Shorthorns, but when I was little most kept Holstein Friesian types for the milk volume. That is no longer necessary and there are no black and white bags(19) on legs, as Holstein Friesian types are referred to at home, being farmed in the Bearthwaite valley. You will find original population Dairy Shorthorns, Jerseys and a smaller number of Ayrshire cattle used as dairy cows, and farmers are making much more money handling a far smaller volume of higher quality milk. It’s long been a local joke that it should be illegal to describe milk with a butterfat content of less than four percent and a protein content of under three and a quarter percent as ‘whole milk’, and both used to be much lower. Nowadays our farmers receive some income via tourism too, and they provide highly popular work experience for our fourteen and fifteen year olds, some of who go on to study agricultural subjects. There is a larger variety of beef breeds to be found than dairy breeds in the valley, but all our dairy cows are put to a bull of their own breed, for there is a flourishing and lucrative, humane veal raising business in the valley run by four sisters. Uncle Hamilton McDonald is one of the most highly respected folk who live at Bearthwaite and with good reason. I want to be like him, clever, respected and someone who can help my neighbours. The ultimate catch for a Bearthwaite youngster is to marry someone who becomes a vet.” Livvy chuckled and added, “Which is why I chose Nicky a long time ago or Dad would have to keep the boys off with a stick.”

When asked what she considered to be the most important thing she had learnt from Hamilton she replied with a smile, “That sleep is a luxury vets have to learn to do without,” which caused smiles and not a little laughter too, for it was one aspect of the job that few could comprehend unless they had worked with a vet for many hours over a prolonged period of time.

When the three had questioned Livvy as to how exactly she had despatched the bison bullock in terms of the knife placement with a view to determining whether or not her knowledge of anatomy and physiology had been adequate for her to guarantee a humane death or whether she had just been lucky, they been amazed to discover that she’d learnt a lot of her anatomy and physiology not just from text books but from the hundreds of hours she’d spent with Vincent the Bearthwaite slaughterman and butcher, who knowing of her interests had worked slowly and with detailed explanations for her. Then there was what she’d learnt from the coneys as she’d prepared them for eating. That all of those experiences had been dissection lessons for her had been obvious when she said she usually used a dissection kit when she was interested to find out what something looked like. Few potential students had a dissection kit, for they had not been required by Advanced level biology and zoology students for decades. That she also had a quality laboratory microscope, a similar binocular microscope and high quality photographic equipment as well as most of the text books she would need too made one of the men ask how she’d found the time.

When Livvy had grinned and replied, “When others sleep I learn,” that had made them all grin too. “I found nineteen thirty-eight first edition copies of both volumes of Maud Jepson’s Biological Drawings on a street market stall last year. I paid thirty pence [40 cents] for the pair. I love the style and that is how I have done my own drawings since then. They were presented as a prize to a pupil named Gordon Bullock at Houghton le Spring Secondary School in nineteen forty. From his class designation he’d have been fourteen at the time, so he must have been a clever lad.” All were familiar with the dissection guides Livvy referred to and her obvious reverence for what had in their day been one of the pinnacles of their type touched them. The books still were literally text book examples of observation and recording and a recent facsimile reprint in a single volume was still available.

They were never to discover that before Vincent had arrived to help her finish the job Livvy had made a good start on butching(20) the bison bullock she’d despatched ready for human consumption, which was arguably illegal dependent on whether bison came under the regulations concerning game or those concerning domestic cattle which include farmed game, though according to the local inspectorate exact criteria were not totally clear. Rather than have to argue about it later, it had been agreed locally to record the beast as having been used for dog food. Too, what they hadn’t considered was that Livvy was not interested in becoming a senior vet for the government. She wished to become as good a vet as she could be for Bearthwaite folk, for her folk and not for outsiders. She wanted to be the Hamilton Kilbride McDonald of her generation, and with the expansion of Bearthwaite farming on land outside the valley even two of them would eventually not be enough.

That Livvy was so emphatic concerning her views and could justify everything she’d said had caused Hamish, one of her interviewers, to say after she’d gone, “That wee lassie is going to seriously upset some of her lecturers from time to time. We need to be aware of that, and if necessary jump in to prevent them victimising her for her revolutionary seeming views, for so they will see them and without doubt she’ll not let the matter drop, nor back down. In fact her views are extremely and refreshingly old fashioned. That was fascinating what she said about the economics of hedges saving farmers money, enabling vets to make a decent living and providing significant economic input into the local economy. That is the kind of joined up thinking that there just isn’t enough of anywhere these days. She’s eloquent, articulate and she put a highly reasoned, cogent argument together extemporaneously without any apparent effort. She says she wants to be clever, respected and someone who can help her neighbours. I’d be very surprised if she isn’t already. I do wonder how many potential vets plan on marrying the local slaughterman’s grandson who is going to take over the business. More interesting than that was the relationship she implied existed between her mentor and the meat inspectorate. If he is doing their inspections for them at the Bearthwaite slaughterhouse and it suits all concerned perhaps that would be a valuable source of income to some of our more extremely rural colleagues. I am going to make some discreet enquiries.

“However, I thought the name of her mentor was elusively familiar, so I looked up Hamilton McDonald. I was right. He’s one of ours, and I taught him. I only know that because I looked it up. I don’t remember teaching him, so I looked at the photos, and his face meant nothing to me. I checked what every lecturer of his and every supervisor of his practices and practicals wrote about him. They all wrote much the same things. Quiet and reticent to the point of being invisible, but interested in everything, brilliant and possibly the best student that ever passed through our hands. Old McIvor wrote that McDonald was the best small animal surgeon he’d ever laid eyes on, and McIvor was a crusty tempered, old cynic that I’d always believed no one could impress. I know I didn’t when I was a student doing his classes. That McDonald did it completely unremarked upon, despite his full scholarship baffles me. Nobody remembered him, and it wasn’t so long ago that he was here, yet all that remains are his student records and a photograph. Both of you taught him at some point. Without doubt by now he could have been the government’s chief vet instead of that clown we have to deal with now. Nobody of the faculty knew anything about McDonald when he was here, and from what little I could find out none of his student peers knew anything about him either. His family, how he did for money, what he did in his free time, not even where he lived. Nothing. There is no record of where he went after graduating. How he ended up in a tiny Cumbrian village, one of the most isolated and insular communities in Great Britain baffles me. There are remote islands that are more in touch with mainstream society than is Bearthwaite. That wee lassie hero worships him, and seemingly she has good reason. She said she wants to be like him, but somehow I doubt that she’ll pass through without leaving a bigger impression on us that we’ll leave on her. I take it we are all agreed she has a place in October with a full scholarship?” There was total agreement with all he had said.

Angus said, “Pretty, intelligent, articulate and to cap it all with manners that went out of fashion at least half a century. That young slaughterman has done very well indeed for himself, so I can only conclude that there is more to him than would meet the eyes of most folk because I refuse to believe it’s just hormones on Olivia’s part since she’s had a relationship with him since the cradle. I wish any of my boys had done as well. And her constant references to Uncle This and Auntie That were just charming. A lovely young woman I’m looking forward to teaching. I’d also love to meet her Uncle Hamilton again.”

Lillian said, “The truth of it is we need students of her calibre more than they need us. She could successfully apply to study anywhere in the world whilst we can only choose from our applicants. Returning to the topic of Bearthwaite. I’ve followed the media concerning activities at Bearthwaite for a number of years now, and my brother Anthony keeps me up to date on what is said to be going on around there. He’s a GP(21) and lives maybe twenty-five miles away from Bearthwaite. He used to have some patients from there, but the village has it’s own GP now. Apparently he’s Hong Kong Chinese and due to the talk that he was gay Anthony was very surprised that he was acceptable to a place as old fashioned as Bearthwaite is reputed to be. However, he says, despite visiting the place from time to time, it has always been hard to sift fact from fiction concerning what is said about the place, and that Chinese GP is now said to be marrying a pretty, younger looking wife who teaches art at the school in the summer which provides a caution against believing anything you hear about the place. Anthony told me he knows from friends in Social Services that the NCSG(22) have managed to place a number of previously much abused transgender children there who have thrived with as much love and support as any child could wish for. His friends say that the folk in Bearthwaite say there is no such thing as an unwanted child in their community and as a community they are highly thought of by NCSG. He cynically told me it was entirely possible that they are well thought of by NCSG because neither of them have a particularly high opinion of the local Social Services and its staff who are not welcome on Bearthwaite property.

“Still talking about verifiable facts about the place. I was particularly interested in their farming practices that came to light during the court cases. That the farmer who sacrificed the use of a barn purely so peregrines could use it to raise chicks undisturbed was not considered to be in any way remarkable by his neighbours I thought was astonishing. That their senior solicitor, who lives at Bearthwaite, donated enough of her fees to build another barn for him, so he and his employees didn’t suffer from the lack of that barn I found equally so. That she claimed neither herself nor her neighbours thought it anything other than proper that RSPB should be punished by their money paying for building it seemed almost unbelievable. She publicly stated, much to RSPB’s embarrassment, that they had wished to be involved in the valley and now they were. Too, she caustically thanked them for the improved quality of life that their financial contribution had enabled the denizens of the Bearthwaite valley to enjoy. I hadn’t considered that I would ever interview a candidate from such a remarkable place, but if her views are truly representative of her folks I am glad I have had the opportunity to meet and question her before she starts her studies and learns to school her opinions, though like you both I doubt she ever will and that will be from choice. She has everything we desire of candidates and a lot more too.” She chuckled and said, “She must have been a nightmare for her parents when she was younger, and then again if she is like them perhaps not. That grandfather of hers must be an amazing man. I’d truly like to meet him.

“That story Angus prised out of her concerning that Landrace boar her grandfather gave her as a piglet when she was what? six or seven was priceless! And her mum’s reaction when her lurcher pup her dad gave her just kept growing when she’d thought it to be a Jack Russell was out of this world priceless. That she raised the pig to killing weight, had it follow a bucket of feed to the slaughterhouse and insisted on watching every detail of its slaughter and butchering and being given explanations of what was being done and why was remarkable enough. But to cap it all that she helped process the blood, the head meat, the offal and all the bits and pieces was, I considered, amazing. When she said it had had a good life, but she’d raised it to eat and didn’t like her bacon so fresh that it could bite back, so it had to die, I had to struggle to avoid laughing, because she was absolutely serious about it. When she said that her next piglet, a gilt(23), was given to her by the slaughterman, who is shortly to become her grandfather in law, so she could see the differences between sows processed for pork and boars processed for cured meat due to the testosterone boar taint I couldn’t help but laugh. Then when she said Grandad Vince the Mince obtained a barrow(24) for her to raise to finally to complete the picture, which she then killed and butchered herself at the slaughterhouse. I had to look away because I’d tears of laughter in my eyes.

“And all that before she went to secondary school! I can see why she doesn’t have many close friends other than her sisters and her fiancé. She probably terrified girls of her own age as a schoolgirl, and even then I received the distinct impression she was closer to her ferrets and her dog than folk of her own age and most of her friends are adults much older than she. I suspect even for Bearthwaite she’s one of a kind, and her sense of humour is to say the least different. However, I am truly grateful she put us down as her first choice, and I suggest we get her offer letter off as soon as possible, so she doesn’t change her mind. I don’t believe for a second she will deliberately rock any boats here because she doesn’t care enough about what others think to do so, but Hamish was right she’s going to create some interesting times. I suggest that in order to ensure she is treated fairly that we select a few students whose work we monitor throughout their time here and that she be one of them. We can put it about that it’s a new idea to ensure standardisation. That way if she isn’t treated fairly we can do something about it as soon as possible, as discreetly as possible, but if things get noisy, so be it.

“Too, Anthony told me years ago about their voting practices. At every election the returning officer receives a number of ballot boxes containing nothing but spoilt ballots from Bearthwaite. Every time there has to be an investigation, but it’s always genuine. At best the ballots have ‘None of these fools’ written on them, but many have far more graphic insults written on them than that, but every one has ‘This is a deliberately spoilt ballot’ written on them to ensure that in the event of a recount no candidate can claim them. However, for a group of people who claim they don’t do politics they are the most political animals I have ever come across. Every interaction they have with persons who are not of their own kind is clearly deeply political in nature though it is difficult to understand what their political goals and aspirations are other than that they wish to determine the course of their own lives.” That that just about summed up the totality of Bearthwaite’s political goals and aspirations would probably not have been understood nor believed by the speaker, nor by any other outsider.


In order to protect themselves and their way of life the senior movers and shakers of Bearthwaite society had decided to go on the offensive, by which they meant to start becoming more influential in what was going on around them, to operate pro actively from positions of power neutralising outside threats before they reared their heads rather than passively responding to them via the courts once they had established themselves.

After going on for two dozen applications, Murray had finally been accepted to attend the necessary course to be trained as a registrar, and as such be able to legally record births, deaths and marriages on behalf of the The General Register Office. He’d joked that he’d probably just ground the local office down. The truth, as all knew, was that his detailed complaint to the The General Register Office at Southport, Merseyside, containing copies of all his applications and the return letters of rejection, had resulted in a strongly worded letter to the local Register Office who’d had no choice but to book him on to the next available course. That meant sainings(25) of the new born were legally within his remit to officially record as a birth, as were marriages without recourse to the registry office at Carlisle or anywhere else. All he needed to officially record a death, like any other registrar, was a doctor’s death certificate and Wing Tan Sun the Bearthwaite family doctor was legally entitled to sign that. Chance, who was accepted by Bearthwaite folk as Murray’s heir was in the process of being accepted by the authorities as a registrar too, for once it had been done the precedent was established and a second Bearthwaite registrar was, to the authorities, not worth fighting against for they knew they would lose. He was booked on the next course which was later in the year.

The local magistrates bench was stunned to have six applications from Bearthwaite residents. Four of the applicants were women and two were men and they ranged in age from twenty-five to sixty. Some discreet investigation revealed that if they wished to reject any of the applicants they’d better have a cast iron justification for doing so and be prepared to defend it ultimately in court. It was concluded it would just be wiser to accept the applications, for there were no justifyable grounds for a rejection of any of the six applicants. All of the applicants were more than responsible adults who already contributed heavily to society and as such fitted the government guidelines for magistrate selection procedures.

The panel assembled to look into the matter was not happy that Elin a twenty-five year old art teacher at the Bearthwaite Educational Establishment who spent a lot of her free time involved with children who were members of the Bearthwaite Model Railway Society and who was engaged to the Bearthwaite GP was trans, but none dared to even mention the matter for that would have been professional and social suicide. Whatever their personal views they all knew the appointment of a trans JP(26) would be seen as a definite feather in the cap of the local bench, so they put a smiling face on it and acted as if they thought it to be a wonderful idea and a much needed step in the direction of social inclusion for minority groups.

Other than that they came from the bizarre mystery that was Bearthwaite, the place that, amongst other anomalies, had a beautifully looked after and well maintained church with nationally known and appreciated, recently created stained glass windows and no religion, the other five applicants presented no issues. Maybel was a thirty-two year old who had been a national level ladies netball player and was still an amateur marathon runner who worked as a girls’ games teacher at the Bearthwaite Educational Establishment too. Like Elin she also spent a lot of her free time working with children.

Beatrice was forty-one, a mother of two daughters and worked as a hand loom weaver who was active in her community with the elderly. She was known to be heavily involved in all community activities at an administrative level.

Yvonne was fifty-two, the Bearthwaite optician’s technician and a relative newcomer to her community, but like Beatrice she too was active in elderly care and was known to be heavily involved in all community activities.

Ralph was sixty, a retired professional football [soccer] coach who worked as a teacher of boys’ rugby, football and cricket at the Bearthwaite Educational Establishment. He spent time out of school hours coaching children and in the gymnasium involved in fitness activities and self defence. He also spent time at the fish hatchery supervising children interested in the activities available there.

Uilleam was fifty-three and had worked as a dry stone waller since boyhood. He was involved in the Bearthwaite apprenticeship schemes that took moderate numbers of socially disadvantaged children out of petty crime and poverty from off the streets of Cumbrian towns, and elsewhere too, and gave them education or employment and a home and a future.

~Old Houses for New~

At Bearthwaite village there was room for the four rows of terraced houses behind the old allotment site to be extended by some twenty eight dwellings each in the direction of the village before reaching the road and a further six each in the direction of the fells before reaching the sheep folds and the farm track at the cliff edge. In addition behind the four rows there was enough room to build another two complete terraces. All were to be built in matching recycled brick and slates to look like they’d been built at the same time as the existing houses. However, the local authority planners had been adjudged likely to be difficult concerning the building of new houses at Bearthwaite, but Sasha had said that that would not initially be a problem, for neither the planners nor building control folk would be coming to visit if no planning application were submitted. It had been decided that all extension and building work would be done under cover of opaque sheets supported on scaffolding to prevent casual observation of the building process even from eye in the sky satellite observation.

The covers and scaffolding poles and clips had been dropped off in convenient places behind the Pastures View terrace. The minimum scaffolding required to prevent observation underneath the covers for the two new terraces to be had been erected and covered first by a couple of hundred men starting as soon as it became dark the eve before on a night of sufficient, rather than full, moon. Whilst some of the men completed the work on the two first covering constructions, the others had already started on the next two covers before dawn. Within forty-eight hours all had been completed by teams of men working round the clock in twelve hour shifts. It had been done so as to convey the initial impression that there were six terraces of houses by making all covers the same width and length, but four would cover a terrace and the sites of the extra houses to be built at each end and the first two would just cover equally long building sites. All had been arranged such that JCB excavating machines could work under the covers to dig the new footings required and the Bearthwaite concrete batching plant, normally resident at the Old Quarry, could be set up under cover to provide the concrete required for the foundations, and later for the mortar for the bricklayers.

Other than the concrete foundations which would be four feet below ground level all masonry building materials would be recycled of the appropriate age and type, and even the sand and aggregate in the concrete would contain a proportion of sand made from crushed glass and stone made from crushed masonry. It had been debated whether the benefit in security afforded by building the footings of age appropriate brick was worth the considerable extra time it would take. It had been decided it would not. Pallets of recycled bricks and roof slates along with tractor trailer loads of materials for concrete and mortar would be delivered from the quarry site to the houses during hours of darkness and unloaded under cover the following day. Harry brought in the artic loads of cement direct from the rail terminal which came from France as unaccompanied trailers. Murray had looked into the matter and it was cheaper to do it that way than it was for Harry to collect the cement from Lafarge’s warehouse in France.

The covers and scaffolding would only be removed when the brickwork and roofs of the houses were completed After that the buildings were tight against the weather and the remaining work could be described as refurbishment if any asked. It would be inconvenient for those who lived there in the already refurbished houses, but it was manageable. Matt Levens had suggested that since the mortar in all the original already refurbished houses was beginning to suffer from the weather and they would all have to be repointed in the not too far distant future, probably in the next decade was suggested, if all the original houses were repointed now and the same style and colour of mortar were used for pointing the new houses since the recycled bricks from the demolition of houses no more than thirty miles away were of the same type from the same long closed brick manufacturer as the existing houses were built from and only differed insignificantly in the way they had weathered it would be impossible for even an expert to tell the difference once the new houses had been built.

Adalheidis had said nothing to any concerning Matt’s ever expanding rôle in the various building projects going in around the village, but she had to smile to herself as the man who so many had considered since his early boyhood to be not over bright was increasingly being consulted as to what should be done when and in what order. One evening a group of men had come round to their house to discuss such matters, and she’d heard Matt say quietly, “No. Not on Saturday or her indoors will raise merry hell. I’ve promised to go to Carlisle with her. Sunday will be okay though.” There was a quiet buzz of conversation before he’d put a stop to it saying, “My missus has a turbo charged Vee Eight broomstick that runs on rocket fuel, so you can just forget it, right! I’ll meet you there at eight on Sunday.”

After he’d shewn the men out she’d asked, “What was that all about, Love?”

“There are problems with deliveries and a couple of jobs took a fair bit longer than expected. Things like that just happen from time to time. It’s not a question of any being to blame. I’m being asked to see if I can come up with a work around so that all the lads can keep working. I doubt if it will turn out to be a terribly serious matter because these sorts of things rarely are. The dry wallers need work to go on to in a few days. Problem is what they want to do next they can’t because though the chippies will have finished, the sparks and the pipers won’t. The lads want me to go round and see what the wallers can be doing next and if I can reschedule the sparks as to what they’re doing and in what order. There’s no rush. It’ll do on Sunday, but we’re going shopping on Saturday looking for stuff for kids and I promised you I’d keep it clear, so I refused to do it on Saturday. Okay? I’ll have a word with Alf about what the pipers can be doing and when. Even if the absolute worst were to happen I’ll recommend the wallers put some time in doing something else, the lonning, the allotments, whatever and they get paid by Beebell anyway. It’s not their fault and they’ll be worried about their wives being able to feed the kids.”

Though at the beginning of their relationship Adalheidis had often been perplexed by things Matt had said of necessity she was coming to understand building trade terminology. Once that first sentence of his would have baffled her, but she now knew dry wallers, chippies, sparks and pipers referred to plasterers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers. It was a month since the couple had been cleared by the NCSG for adoption and though they had no idea what they were expecting in terms of numbers, age, sex or anything else they were getting themselves into they were excited by the prospect and had decided to go to the city to see what they could find. It was a treat, a celebration that they had had to put off several times for various reasons, and now they had fixed on a day they were not going to give it up for anything less significant in their lives, and plastering walls wasn’t even close. She knew that Matt wouldn’t break his word to her unless a life depended on it, but that he had referred to her broomstick as an excuse to avoid what he didn’t wish to do amused her. Essentially he’d blamed ‘her indoors’, an expression that meant ‘my missus’, and her potential reaction to him letting her down for his being unable to comply with their request.

Adalheidis, like all Bearthwaite women, used her husband to avoid what she didn’t wish to do, so she considered it a fair enough exchange. The usual female usage of the ploy was to say some thing like, ‘There’s no chance my old man will entertain that.’ The exclusively male expressions involving broomsticks referred to a woman being difficult due to her cycle. It wasn’t pejorative merely something most men understood the reality of. That Matt had used it despite her being trans was amusing and somehow gratifying to her too, for the implication was that neither Matt not the other men thought of her as anything other than a woman, and as such she had to be treated with an appropriate degree of caution from time to time. Her being trans was in no way germane to the matter, for from a male perspective all women could be difficult and since she was a woman that obviously applied to her too.

It wasn’t long after that that Alf had suggested to all the senior folk involved in the building and refurbishments that were going on in and around Bearthwaite, and on Beebell owned sites elsewhere too, that, “Matt should be made up to GF because he’s got the widest understanding of what’s going on where and how best to avoid problems due to timings and late deliveries upsetting the lads.” In other words Alf wanted Matt promoted to General Foreman of all Bearthwaite building and refurbishments because of all their folk he was the best to facilitate speedy completion without having worried tradesmen concerned about feeding their families when there was no work for them to do. It had taken some persuasion on her part to have Matt accept the offer, but eventually he did and was even proud of himself when he heard her tell an outsider she was married to the Beebell’s building manager.

~A New Meat Inspector~

The only officials who had to be accommodated who visited the village were the meat inspectorate, the kitchens inspectorate and the weights and measures officers. Neither the meat inspectors nor the kitchens inspectors would be passing the new houses and even were they to do so the repair of storm damaged Victorian properties would be of no professional interest to them. In any case as Vincent had pointed out with Christine’s, Gladys’ and Jeremy’s agreement, those three had the only major commercial kitchens in the valley, they came as infrequently as they could get away with, usually a visit once a year or fewer than that, and they always rang in advance, so as to preclude a wasted journey due to flood waters on the lonning. The kitchens inspectorate also had the duty to inspect all the places that sold cream teas and the like to visitors but they were all on farms. In the case of the meat inspectorate Hamilton had for various reasons been present when Vincent had slaughtered animals recently. Knowing about Vincent’s difficulties over the years with the inspectorate, he’d telt Vincent that he could obtain the necessary inspectorate forms and fill them out for him which would count as an official visit. He’d studied a course on public health which involved slaughterhouses and what could and couldn’t be passed on into the human food chain, so he was far more highly qualified to do the job than a meat inspector.

Vincent had smiled and said he’d be grateful because the local inspectors were idiots. He’d telt Hamilton, “I’ve never passed a carcass that they then failed, but I’ve refused to accept several carcasses over the years as fit for human consumption that they’d already passed. I sent samples off for analysis and I was correct on every occasion.” After Hamilton had sent off his first report he’d received an angry phone call demanding to know who the hell he was. He’d pointed out his report had his name and qualifications at the top to be telt the letters meant nothing. Hamilton had replied that he was the local veterinary surgeon and he had attended all the public hygiene courses so he was actually far more highly qualified than any of the local meat inspectorate team, and he had covered the most recent update on livestock parasitology that could affect humans. Keeping his cool, Hamilton had asked how often would the inspectorate like Vincent’s premises and his practice to be inspected, for he was happy to do that if they would keep him updated as to any changes in the law as and when they occurred.

He’d been telt that four times a year would satisfy the big bosses as long as at least one was unannounced. Hamilton had said they probably would all be unannounced because that was how things happened at Bearthwaite. He’d been asked would five thousand a year be acceptable in payment for the work. Hamilton being no fool had asked for fifteen and they’d settled at twelve and half. The meat inspectorate were happy because they didn’t like dealing with Vincent who’d made fools of them several times and there’d been nothing they could do about it because the lab evidence had proven that Vincent had been correct and their own documentation had proven them to be wrong concerning serious matters of public health. Too, Vincent didn’t deal with fools gladly and he’d made it crystal clear that he have a go at them for disability discrimination if it came to it. Vincent had had polio as a boy and had to walk with the aid of two sticks. The meat inspectors knew that whether there were any truth in Vincent’s accusations or not the resulting investigation would make life extremely unpleasant for them. Over a pint in the Green Dragon Vincent had explained to the taproom clientele that his view was that you had to use every possible advantage when dealing with bureaucrats and anything that kept the inspectorate away from his premises had to be a good thing. He’d also added that he didn’t think any of the inspectorate staff were bright enough to be guilty of disability discrimination and for sure none of them would be able to spell it. As a result, Hamilton was duly officially accepted as a meat inspector with just one slaughterhouse to inspect. “That,” as Vincent said, “solves all my problems there, and it’ll keep them out of the valley. Doubtless they’d cause trouble for us if they could just for spite. However, come down as often and whenever you like, Lad. You still want to watch me deal with all of Elleanor’s bison beasts?”

“Please, Vincent. I’m thinking someone will have to write the handbook on raising, slaughtering and butching them, and seeing as we’re the only spot raising them for meat at present it may as well be us. At least that way we’ll trust it. Elleanor keeps me informed, and I’ve done as much research into them as I can although there’s not much available. All I’ve found so far is the same as cattle, which is hardly surprising. If you ever find anything rare or surprising, document it, in writing with photos and video and give me a call. Till then, just advise thorough cooking. Treat it the same as you would pork till we have a lot more information. I’d say five or better ten years. It’s not probably what folk would prefer, but point out we could be avoiding a tragedy, so the rule is better safe than sorry and bugger what any so called experts say. I suggest that we take samples of all organs and from all major muscle blocks too to send off the the lab. That will cost us money, but we shall be in possession of the definitive analysis of the carcasses which will keep us legally in the clear as having done all that could be done no matter what happens. I’ll have Beebell pick up the bill and write a paper on it when we have enough results. I’ll write it up under McDonald, Peabody and Thorp. Okay?”

“Aye, Lad. Write what you wish, but you’re preaching to the choir regarding safety. I’ve always said if I lose money it’s just money, and I can always work a bit harder. There’s no solution to the pain of losing friends and every single body as comes in my shop is a friend.”

“Can you make sure an extra twelve and a half thousand quids’ worth of meat finds its way to those who need it most, Vincent? I’ll have Murray or Chance have the money paid to you probably by paying some of your bills for you so it avoids appearing as income. They’ll bury it into the running costs of my surgery somehow. An increase in my rent perhaps? Who knows? I don’t even try to understand what they do never mind why they do it.”

Vincent chuckled and said, “Aye, Lad. That pair are gey good at making money just disappear and then just as miraculously reappear when they need some. You wanting to force the inspectorate into making a substantial charitable donation?”

“Well, I don’t need the money, and I want it to do some good. I don’t care whether it’s seen to do so or not. I didn’t particularly like that bloke Franks’ attitude. He didn’t seem to be someone I’d want to go for a pint with, so I’ll be more than happy to give his money away. If that seems to be a bit spiteful of me I guess I’ll just have to live with it.”

Vincent laught and said,“Nay, Lad, you got that one right, Hamilton. Geoff Franks is, without wishing to be uncharitable, a miserable bastard who throws his weight about when he can and is an arse licker when he can’t. He was the one who passed every one of those carcasses selt at slaughter sales I wouldn’t pay for because I rejected ’em as unfit for human consumption, so he’s not over bright and doesn’t know his trade too well either. But aye, I’ll see the meat gets to those who need it most. Those carcasses were why I encouraged local lads to raise more beef for me, and I haven’t bought owt from outside for a few years now.” Hamilton didn’t realise it, but that act of charity, which Vincent correctly telt others was not done for any other motive than that to Hamilton it had seemed the right thing to do, established him as a rightful member of the Beebell directorship. Like all other members there was no official voting or anything like that, though the constitution said there had to be if any called for it, it was all done by an osmotic process whereby the respect of his neighbours seeped around the population.

~Dairy Soya~

Alan Peabody like other farmers was subject to inspection visits due to selling dairy products, but their inspectors were a separate team who only visited the farms and never went anywhere near the village. They were quite happy to assume the task of inspecting the soya bean and other pulse product production too. As one of the women had said, “I’d no idea how similar to the dairy process some aspects of the process are, and at the same time how different some aspects of the process are. It’s interesting and makes a change. A number of my colleagues would like to watch the initial process. Is there any chance of you letting us know when you’re going to process the next batch, so a few of us may come down to watch? Rather than us coming on a scheduled or unannounced visit to watch something we’ve already seen thousands of times here and elsewhere.” Grant Peabody, who was usually in charge of the soya processes, had happily agreed and provided a provisional date.

~Friendly Interactions~

The weights and measures officers who came to check scales, balances, and beer, wine and spirit measures at Vincent’s, Lucy’s, Christine’s and Pete’s retail premises hadn’t been seen since pre Covid, but likewise would be no problem when they did eventually shew up. Unlike as had been the case with the meat inspectors, everyone who interacted with the dairy inspectors, the kitchens inspectors and the weights and measures officers had good relationships with them.

~Old Information Lost & New Data Created~

Sasha had suggested that all the building down at the old allotments site up to and including the brickwork could be done whilst the road was flooded to ensure privacy, and since there was a more than adequate supply of matching recycled building bricks that would blend in as though they had always been there folk would only see what they expected to see. Most nodded in agreement, for it was what Sasha was notorious for: say nowt and allow others to let their senses and what they expected to be the truth convince themselves that it were the truth. All knew that the authorities of every kind whether they be police, local government, social services or any other rarely if ever found out anything for themselves. They relied on others, the general public, to inform on their neighbours, and that source of information was not available to any of them regarding anything that occurred at Bearthwaite. Since all of the original properties at the site had been shelled and their roofs removed to replace the timbers for the refurbishment process and some had required considerable amounts of their brickwork relaying there would be plenty of opportunity for mixing original and old recycled bricks and slates.

All the larger timbers and most of the smaller ones too were being provided by selective felling of trees on forestry owned by Beebell. The Peabody shire horses were employed in the forests to pull out individual sticks to where Edward and his forestry team had a portable sawmill and a huge pressure tank both built by some of Bertie’s mechanics and welders onto trailer chassis for producing dimensional timber and treating it against woodworm and the like. The sawmill waste was all taken back to Bearthwaite. The larger pieces would be used as firewood and the smaller stuff right down to sawdust would be used as feed for the plant that produced brash blocks.(27) Under cover of the huge factory building at the Bearthwaite quarry were similar sawing and pressure treating facilities and a large paint stripping tank too. All were used mostly for recycling and repurposing demolition timbers.

The original two hundred and thirty-two houses had been reduced to two hundred and sixteen due to some of the smaller houses being made into one with one of its neighbours. After extension, each terrace would then be eighty-eight houses long and six terraces would have five hundred and twenty-eight houses, two hundred and ninety-six more than had originally been on the site. The blending of the recycled bricks and slates with originals and the identical pointing had been artfully done to present a uniform appearance. Even the new houses were differently sized in the same way that the original ones were, for in those days houses weren’t built to a plan, the bricklayer merely build the dividing party walls when he felt he’d laid enough bricks across the front. It had been well planned. Buthar, a villager who had worked as a computer maintenance technician for the local authority had skilfully caused a system wide crash in the local authority’s computers, as a result of which a tiny amount of data spread over many departments had been lost. The lost data had included all records concerning Bearthwaite in all the authority’s departments, which was not to be noticed for years, by which time Buthar had long since left the authority’s employ and the data loss had been put down to being just one of those things. That the data loss included the emergency off site back up was never to be discovered. The chaos caused by Cumbria’s reorganisation from the six previous local authorities and the over arching Cumbria County Council into the two new unitary authorities(28) had helped, for no one wanted to accept responsibility for anything and the buck had continued to be passed around for many years, long enough for the matter to be irrelevant. That it was not certain exactly what and how much data had been lost had helped to muddy the waters considerably, but the fact was none cared as long as it wasn’t his arse that was getting kicked.

~Self Inflicted Chaos~

Joe who though from a generations old Bearthwaite family had worked for Cumbria County Highways division and then worked for Westmorland and Furness in the same capacity had said, “If they manage everything else the same as they did with the wages when the change over occurred we’ll never even hear of the matter. Ever. The wages were a complete fuck up. Some lads didn’t get paid for a month and a half, and I heard some of the lasses as worked in the offices were tret the same. I only know about lads and lasses who worked for Eden and others like me for the County, but I don’t suppose it was any better for lads and lasses who worked for the other five districts that got done away with. God alone knows what made the difference, but some of us were paid okay, but like a lot of the lads who actually got paid, I lent most of my wages out to lads who’d been paid nowt who had lasses at home with kids to feed, and to some of the lasses that were in the same boat too. They were being asked to be patient by the new bosses. Try telling that to crying kids who’re hungry and cold. What a frigging shambles. Christ, it’s like going back to the days of Dickens.

“Some of the lads, especially the young and single lads, just said, ‘Stuff it,’ handed their notices in and upped and left because they knew where there was work they’d get paid for. Now Westmorland and Furness is desperate to recruit lads and lasses too in just about every department before it all goes completely tits up. They’ve sent letters out to some of the staff who quit asking them to return, but the letters said nowt about the money they’re still owed. I told my boss as soon as the wages were late being paid into the banks that if they didn’t provide some emergency relief wages, preferably in cash they’d lose staff because any fool could work for free and there just weren’t that many fools about. ‘Can’t do that, it has to go through proper channels’ I was telt. Idiots, pen pushers, keyboard warriors and computer jockeys, but I’d bet every last one of the mothers’ sons, and daughters too, as go to work wearing a suit and a tie got their pay in full, yet none of them are sharp enough to realise all the bloody chaos is self inflicted. Christ, all it would have taken is the county treasurer to make a phone call to the bank, and have a security firm deliver a couple of hundred quid apiece to each and every worker needing it till it all got sorted out. They wouldn’t have had to pay anyone in full, just enough to keep their their kids fed and their immediate bills paid. Folk would have been patient and there would have been no loss off goodwill if the county had been seen to be doing what it could. Fact is none of the bastards will ever be trusted again and none will ever do them a favour. If they ever end up in the shit, and with the way they run things nothing is more certain, they’ll have to pay their way out with money up front.

“Anyway, I’ve had enough of working with selfish, incompetent fools who couldn’t organise a decent night out in a whorehouse run in the back of a distillery. I’ve had a word with Saul, handed my notice in and I’m starting with him on Monday. I telt the lads and lasses I’d lent money to to keep it and do someone else a favour someday. Some of the local lads and I reckon if we all chuck in we can afford a small Blaw-Knox Asphalt Paver in decent condition. Alf said when we find one we’re interested in to let him know and he’ll look it over for us. To most folk that’s a tarmac laying machine for putting roads down. Saul says getting work for it will be no problem. Seems that the County, as it is now, have a shortage of lad’s that can do the work. Saul says Murray will negotiate it so that the asphalt is charged to the county and he’ll deal with our charges. We used to be men as worked on the highways, but from the money he was talking about we’ll be bloody highwaymen now for sure. So it’s looks like we’re all going to be doing the same job most of us have done since leaving school, but we’ll be self employed now and getting paid a hell of a sight more for it. You never know the county may just have a Blaw-Knox going cheap seeing as they’ve got no lads left as can operate one.”

Joe was a son of Irish Pat who said, “Ignore the eejits,(29) Son. You did right, not seeing kids go hungry. I’m proud of you, Son. What did Helen say?”

“She said she and the kids would be glad to see me spend more time at home, and if need be she’d organise a whip round to collect a bit of cash for my old work mates as need it.” Helen, Joe’s wife worked a full time job, part time each for Gladys, Alice, Dianne Ellery and Christine doing whatever was required at the time. She enjoyed the variety and was a much appreciated help when things became a little frantic, for she was renown for her calm under all and any conditions. “She’s already gouged me on the expectation of me earning more. Says she’s going to go shopping with some of the lasses and buy some new lingerie. Like as I’m going to object to her spending money on sexy undies am I?” It took a while for the laughter to die down during which time the usual washing and refilling of glasses took place.

~Missing Maps~

At a later date all the original maps and plans of the valley had been removed from the authority’s archives, and that hadn’t been noticed either. Very few of Bearthwaite’s residents were aware they’d been taken and even fewer were aware that they all resided in Adalheidis’ secure fireproof, humidity and temperature controlled documents safe sunk deep in the floor of the bobbin mill’s lower ground floor. It had been created a few years ago to house several such safes, and most were unaware of its existence too. The senior folk involved in Beebell knew it wasn’t a foolproof erasure of all information, but they had agreed that for someone to go digging for data retrieval in the county’s archives they had to know what it was they were looking for, and they had to have a reason to find it, both of which were unlikely in the extreme. They knew that by the time the authorities even suspected something untoward had occurred, if they ever did, it would be ascribed to documents being lost or more probably stored in the wrong places during the movement of huge amounts of documents from Carlisle Castle to Lady Gillford’s House Petteril Bank Road in Carlisle and other places too that took place in twenty eleven, by which time it would be too late for them to do anything about it, for there was a legal time limit within which they had to act, and four years for the planners and five for building control was not a long time, especially if it were claimed to have been done six years before and one agued about the legality of evidence from eye in the sky stuff like Google street view. Too it was thought that by the time any thought anything had occurred there would be few senior staff currently employed left, for most would have retired and the rest would be focussed on their retirement not on an investigation into a decades old event that may or may not have occurred and thus couldn’t possibly be of any significance.


The only problem Bearthwaite had was what to name the new terraces, for as was wryly agreed New Row One and New Row Too whilst amusing weren’t sensible. Eventually, it was decided to utilise the four original names with two new ones and rename all of the terraces other than Allotments Row. The original names were retained but used for other terraces. The second terrace that had been Glebe Street became Mill Terrace which was a new name, the third terrace that had been Demesne Lane became Glebe Street, the fourth terrace that had been Pastures View became Demesne Lane, the next terrace, a new one built on slightly rising ground became, Quarry Brow the second new name, and the sixth terrace, also a new one, became Pastures View. The order of the streets was retained and as before the one at the front, overlooking the old allotments site, was Allotments Row and the one at the back, overlooking the steeply rising sheep pasture, was Pastures View. Eventually, much to the relief of the residents, Sasha would be proven to be right and the five years would come and go without comment from any.

~Post Codes~

Tommy who had the Bearthwaite post office with Sarah his wife was asked by the area sorting office for information concerning the postcodes of Mill Terrace and Quarry Brow. He’d replied that as far as he was aware all six terraces had had the same postcode since postcodes were introduced back in the nineteen seventies which was way before his time. He’d said that when he’d asked some of the older residents of Bearthwaite who’d lived in the terraces in those days about the matter they’d all said the same. The area post master saw the sense in that, because the two terraces in question were in the middle of the others whose postcode they knew, so he assumed that the two terraces had been missed as a result of an oversight when the records were digitised for the creation of the new computer operated system decades ago. The records had been digitised to enable the automated mail sorting machines that were eventually introduced at all sorting offices to handle most mail. He included the two terraces’ postcode and agreed with Tommy that it was sensible to backdate them to when the other records had been created so as to avoid any awkward questions from his superiors in the future. The result was that all six terraces were seen to have been there since the original four were built.


Due to the return of many Bearthwaite reared folk, the family members they brought back with them and others too who had decided that they were sick of the artificial life that so called main stream society offered, the population of Bearthwaite had risen to about ten thousand in and around the village. In reality Bearthwaite society was probably double that when those Bearthwaite folk who lived outside the valley on land under Beebell control were included. Bearthwaite Education Establishment, note not School, was educating large numbers of children at Bearthwaite and similar numbers of primary aged children [below eleven] at the other primary establishments elsewhere that were totally owned, paid for and hence controlled by Bearthwaite, all of which were legally part of the Bearthwaite education system and so not inspected by Ofsted. Bearthwaite’s Secondary aged children [eleven to eighteen] from both within the valley and outside it were all educated at the Bearthwaite Education Establishment in the valley. Normally they were collected and taken to school by the Bearthwaite bus. When necessary the bus dropped them at the rise and they covered the rest of the journey over the flood water in the Bearthwaite Queen.

~The Bearthwaite Link~

As a result of events happening outside Bearthwaite and the tales telt by returnees of events out there there was a widely held suspicion that the lawless idiots from outside would eventually decide that Bearthwaite was a rich target for picking. As a result the security measures put into place were far more extreme than those employed when Bearthwaite had been at war with the utilities company after their invasion of the valley to reconnect the water supply from the reservoir. It had been decided that it would eventually be necessary for the road to be flooded permanently, like it had been centuries ago, and better mechanisms than the boats currently employed for residents to cross the flood needed to be put into place. The engineering contingent had suggested that a hovercraft, though now considered to be a historic technology, would be an ideal craft to meet their needs, for passengers could embark at a suitable facility in the village after which it could traverse the flooded lonning, crest the rise regardless of how deep the flood water was or wasn’t and take the passengers to the Bearthwaite Lonning Ends car park where there would be suitable alighting facilities for them to transfer to the bus, and it had been decided that they should design and build such a craft. It already had a name The Skimmer Rise and a design team. Too, in order to have enough water to maintain an all year round flood the reservoir dam needed to be a little higher and much wider, that too was put in train, under the supervision of Georgette Morgan a recently acquired structural engineer who now lived at Bearthwaite.

~Darkfell Cottage~

Twenty years before, Lewissa Dahlman had been bereft at the loss of Donald her husband of going on forty years. He’d only been fifty-eight and had appeared to be in good health, but he was dead before he’d hit the floor and hadn’t been aware of anything as the combined heart and stroke had left his grieving widow behind. No longer able to face Bearthwaite where she and Donald had lived since their births she’d gratefully accepted the financial assistance provided, mostly by Elle Vetrov had Lewissa but known, to help her move a dozen miles away to an isolated cottage not far away from the car park the fell walkers used when they walked the routes around and over Dark Fell. Darkfell Cottage provided her with a small income selling ice cream and cold drinks from the parlour. The ice cream was made using Jersey milk from the Peabody herd and the unique soft drinks were made by Christine’s workers in the bobbin mill from locally grown or collected fruit and vegetable materials. Lewissa’s products were highly lauded and known county wide. The tourist information services recommended a visit for the walks and a rest with a refreshing ice or drink afterwards. Her move eventually set in train a sequence of events that none could have foreseen. There had been a small hamlet there once of thirty-two farm workers’ tied cottages,(30) Darkfell Village, but most of the cottages had tumbled down over the years.

~Darkfell Village~

Sasha Vetrov, always looking for investments that paid not just dividends in the conventionally accepted financial sense but for investments that paid dividends that couldn’t be easily valued in a record ledger too, had had the ownership of the cottages looked into. Local enquiries revealed they had all belonged to an aristocratic family from the midlands that hadn’t been anywhere near them for generations and were part of the huge tract of land that had been sold about ten years before. The estate had been purchased with the intention of creating a shooting moor, but nothing had ever been seen through regards the matter. Exactly why Lewissa’s cottage had been sold on it’s own separate from the estate was a mystery till it was discovered a housemaid made pregnant by a son of the house two centuries ago had been given the cottage and a small income to keep her mouth shut regarding the matter as long as she remained available to the afore mentioned son. Seemingly it had been a well thought of arrangement locally because he’d been more than generous till they’d both died of old age. When the cottage had come on the market Elle had snapped it up for peanuts due to its condition. She’d had the Levins brothers renovate it for casual use by any Beebell worker that found it convenient long before Lewissa had taken up residence. She had a team of part time folks who scoured the local press and the internet too for such properties and had bought several to date. When Sasha had made tentative enquiries of the land agent who was London based, the agent had said the entire tract of land which was five thousand eight hundred and seventeen acres or thereabouts [2354 hectares] was for sale to the right customer. Sasha sensing the agent was about to put a stupidly high price on the land headed him off by saying, “I presume that means one who has cash because the land is so poor nobody would ever be able to raise a loan to buy it.”

~Dark Fell~

The agent had protested that the land was a prime piece of real estate. Sasha told him in Russian to go and shit in his hat. When asked what he’d said Sasha had replied, “Trust me you really don’t want to know. However, that land is so poor, even the wild deer don’t go there and they can live on just about any piece of land anywhere in Cumbria. It’s obvious you’ve never looked at it. I heard it was planned to be a shooting moor, but the idea came to nothing. I presume that was when it was discovered how much money would be required up front in order to do that. Tell you what. Don’t bother negotiating with me, just send me two copies of a contract, both signed, for a reasonable amount of money. If I’m interested at your price I’ll sign one and return it by next post. If I think you’re an idiot trying to make a sale at a stupid price you’ll never hear from me again because I’ll be talking to someone else concerning their piece of land. At the moment there are several on the market in northern England and Scotland and prices are very reasonable. Just for the record despite my accent I’ve lived here for decades and I do know exactly what land of any type is worth round here. I have no intention of telling you why I am tentatively interested in this or indeed any other parcel of land, and I’ve got more money than you could ever dream about. I’m not looking to gouge you, but I’m sure as hell not looking to be gouged by you either. I look forward to receiving your contract, Mr Failsworth, or maybe not, goodday.” As Failsworth heard the click as Sasha put the phone down terminating the conversation he realised there was a sale in the offing but there would be no easy money to be made.

Failsworth had been trying to sell the ‘Grouse Moor’ for going on eight years, since his principal had discovered that it would indeed cost far too much money to turn into a shooting estate. He’d advised George not to buy the land, but had been ignored. When Sasha had contacted him he’d thought his luck was in, but Sasha had soon disabused him of that notion, and he clearly knew the market, for indeed there were some nine large tracts of land on the market in northern England and Scotland, and prices weren’t reasonable if one were selling, they were depressed. George had paid too much for the land, and prices had dropped dramatically since then. It was a buyers’ market, but he could accept settling for his usual percentage. It was just a question of making George Pevensey see reason. Failsworth made the phone call and ended up saying, “No, George, if you wish to make a fool of yourself I’ll give you his number to ring yourself. I know his type and ten million is a pipe dream. I told you at the time you paid too much, and land prices have dropped.

“There is no way he’ll pay even seven and a half and I can guarantee he’d laugh at you at that price. If I ask seven he’ll probably counter with six. If he counters with less than six I’ll put the phone down on him, but I can’t see that happening because he does know the market, and he has clearly inspected and researched your land. I could settle at six and a half and so will he. That is not cheap for what it is, but it’s not dear either. Yes, I know you paid eight, but as I keep telling you you paid too much even then. If you ask stupid money he will walk away from you and start dealing elsewhere. He is aware of the other eight large tracts of land on the market. I’ve asked around about him, none will tell me anything, but I can sense them smirking at the other end of the phone. He has serious liquid money, and you need to recover some. Just write it down to experience and be grateful you managed to recover over eighty percent of what you laid out. And, George, next time don’t just listen to me, take it onboard too. I reckon given your initial mistake you’ll have done well if he closes at six and a half. He’s the only nibble I’ve had since you told me to recover your money.”

The deal was done at six and a half and none was any the wiser concerning the change of ownership of the Dark Fell estate. Darkfell village was, however, another matter. Old plans, maps and diagrams had been dug up from muniment rooms, vaults and museums, and copies made long before Sasha had contacted Failsworth. Since the cottages had been there for centuries it was renovation not new building that was taking place. The Victorian photos of the cottages meant the planners were stymied before they even started and building control could always be negotiated with. The only downside to that was often it cost money, a lot of money, to meet building control’s requirements, but Sasha had a lot more money than that, so all was okay. The Darkfell village had arisen phoenix like from the ashes of it’s demise occupied by folk from Bearthwaite, mostly young couples who worked for Beebell on Dark Fell in various land reclamation rôles. Darkfell Village had been Beebell’s first significant foray into residential property outside the Bearthwaite valley, and Lewissa had neighbours. Lewissa became older and as typically happened when a well liked woman reached her middle eighties she became respectfully known as Granny Dahlman. Her eighteen year old great granddaughter, Solveig, went to live with her after her own heartbreak when she’d been played false by a boy from Whitehaven. “Choose a Bearthwaite lad, Sweetheart,” her Granny had said, “because at least they mean it when they tell you that they love you. Yes like all lads they want to get you into bed, but even then they won’t say, ‘I love you’ when they don’t. And a bit of fun in bed is no bad thing for a lass. The lads aren’t entitled to all the fun. Consider this, better to find out now than after the wedding when you are having his child. Too a Bearthwaite boy will always do the decent thing if he gets a lass with child which means he will do what you wish to do. It doesn’t necessarily mean marriage, but it does mean care and support for you and the child for as long as you need or wish it.”

~Increasing Influence~

A six hundred and five acre farm [245 hectares] near Darkfell village came onto the market and it was bought by Gustav to grow barley and hops for his brewery. The farm house once derelict now restored housed some of the Peabody farm workers who were working to bring the land back into good heart. Direct injection of sewage sludge was not only good for the land Gustav was being paid to take it which helped out on the wages bill considerably. Eventually a lot more land came up for sale and Gustav and Sasha bought it all as fast as it became available, but again via proxies. It was assumed that the folk inhabiting the farm houses were either the buyers or tenant farmers. That they were close mouthed about the matter was considered normal, for farmers as a breed thereabouts tended to be dour and silent. The truth would not have been believed even had it been available, for none outside of Bearthwaite folk could imagine that all was being done in the interests of a common good and owned by a coöperative. Eventually all buying was all done by Murray and his Beebell team.

It was the Dark Fell estate and Gustav’s farm land near there that had started the Bearthwaite purchase policy of large tracts of land elsewhere, Scotland, Northumbria and some a little further south too. Over the next six months Murray and his Beebell team had bought up the remaining eight estates of fells and moorland via proxies on Sasha’s behalf. Sasha had considered that it were best to buy when none else had any money and prices were so low. As residential properties came up for sale they were purchased by Beebell for what became the expanding Bearthwaite community. As hamlets and villages became dominated by the Bearthwaite culture a few residents decided they didn’t like living amongst all the interbreds and so they started to sell up. The trickle out became a haemorrhage and then a deluge as the anti Bearthwaite folks left. The few outsiders that were left got on with their neighbours and rapidly concluded that the calumny and spite that were being spread about were just that: smears spread by jealous inadequates. It didn’t take long before they too had become Bearthwaite folk, it wasn’t a rapid spread and it didn’t apply to many, but to quote Sasha, “It is a strictly increasing function.” When asked what that meant he’d explained, “It’s a process that only moves forward and no matter how slowly it moves like time it never actually stops.”

~Agricultural Innovation~

The large tracts of land recently acquired by Beebell had enabled a number of the more progressive folk including some of the Bearthwaite farmers to expand their operations and to try new ventures too, all of which had created employment opportunities. As time had gone on fewer Bearthwaite folk were employed by outsiders even if they were working outside the valley. In the main they worked for Beebell, which as was frequently remarked was like being self employed, but without the paperwork, because Chance and his various teams did all that. In the main their work was connected with agriculture, forestry, game management and building restoration, but not exclusively so, for Beebell needed many other skills too. The Peabody girls managed herds of bison and of Highland cattle, and in addition to their huge flocks of Lakeland Herdwick sheep they also had flocks of Soay sheep, Karakul sheep and the nuclei of herds and flocks of other heritage and rare breeds of cattle and sheep as well. The more exotic, and expensive, breeds of Peabody livestock were all on their family farm back at Bearthwaite busy breeding the large flocks and herds that would eventually be disseminated to elsewhere, for others to husband. One of their most lucrative experiments had been fat tailed sheep(31) which sold for small fortunes to some of the ethnic communities away down south desperate for the tastes of home.

However, much of their livestock was on land far from the valley looked after by folk who had been grateful to find their centuries old ways of life, that had been threwn away by the large concerns that had seemed to be taking over all agricultural endeavour, had in fact been retained and encouraged by Beebell and all other Bearthwaite employers. That Beebell was financially successful enough, expanding in terms of influence and workforce numbers, to have recently bought up a couple of the so called modern industrial agricultural corporations’ farms because they simply had not been able to compete with Beebell delighted its workforce which saw Beebell as the last defender of a centuries old way of life. A defender that may well be the last one, but by no means was one fighting a rearguard action. They were taking the fight to the enemy and they were winning. None were against progress per se, but if the cost was to be the way they wished to live it was demanding too much of them, so it was seen as the enemy.

It would be a long time before any other than Beebell, other Bearthwaite employers and their workforces realised that a major reason why they were so successful was because their workforces appreciated being tret like human beings by managements that were prepared to assist them in any way possible which meant they had workforces that were prepared to bend over backwards to assist their employers when they needed aid. If the management asked for employees to work overtime, to assist at tasks that were not part of their job it was as good as done, not because they would be paid well for the aid but because it was known that a man who needed time to be with a wife whose pregnancy was not going as well as expected or a mum who needed time to cope with sick children or elderly relatives would be told to take the time off and their wages would be paid as normal. It was not a gravy train nor a handout in any sense in either direction, and in any case in the end in many cases the workforce was the employer. Naytheless the workforces and the employers considered they deserved each other, even if in the end it was simply a matter of living and behaving in what all considered was the right and proper way to live and behave. It was the distillate of the Bearthwaite philosophy, ‘You don’t have to like your neighbour, but if he needs help you have to provide it, for when you need it he will help you, despite his dislike of you.’

~Resurrection and Revitalisation~

Shepherds and their cattle equivalent were in high demand and most had several apprentices and a dozen Border Collies. Trades that had all but died out over not just the rest of Cumbria but the rest of the country too were thriving on Bearthwaite property. Those few who still practised those old trades elsewhere were finding it difficult to stay in employment, and many on discovering there were new sources of regular, familiar work with accommodation they could afford available with Beebell moved from all over the county rather than move much shorter distances to stay with younger family where their lives would be effectively behind them, in the harsh vernacular they would become trainee corpses. Instead, well paid and highly respected, the modern practitioners of those centuries old crafts used the best of the old and the new. Where land rovers weren’t practical horses often were and mobile phones made the job much more attractive to older folk and youngsters alike. Youngsters who elsewhere were not considered suitable for any modern employment were no longer destined for the scrap heap of the twenty-first century.

The only apprentice dry stone wallers anywhere in the country were to be found working for Beebell and the effect they and their masters were having on the landscape and some of the buildings in need of their skills was dramatic. Skills born centuries ago out of necessity in a poor land with few resources were returning their environment to its previous state of extreme picturesqueness that drew visitors with pockets that jingled with coins they were willing to spend. That state was never intended to promote tourism it was intended to render the field boundaries functional again, but as Saul of the demolition crews said as they delivered a couple of trailer loads of stone with a track laying agricultural tractor to Uilleam master waller and his apprentices on the high fells at a site where little could be found for the wallers to work with, “Coin is coin, Uilleam, and we’ve a few flasks of hot tea and some bait put up by Aggie’s lasses at the Dragon kitchens for you and your lads as well as some fruit cake baked and put up by Iðunn for you.”

Iðunn was Uilleam wife and a glass blower. They’d never had children, were now on NCSG’s list to adopt, but Iðunn had always mothered the youngsters that Uilleam worked with. “I’ve instructions from Chance to take a few photos and some video of you and your work for the website. It seems some of you youngsters are already extremely popular with some of the younger female visitors.” Saul grinned as his men laughed and continued, “Word of advice, Lads. Enjoy it while you can, but a Bearthwaite lass will keep your bed warm for a lifetime not just the summer. That of course has absolutely nothing to do with me having a dozen granddaughters I’d be more than happy to become some other blokes’ problems not mine and their dads’. Fingal, Iðunn says you’re eating Sunday dinner with us and Jilly. She’s already telt your mum, so Bella and I’ll see you then.”

Fingal and Jilly had been an item since he’d moved to Bearthwaite fifteen months before looking for work as a shepherd. When he discovered that there were employment opportunities walling he’d decided that he’d rather do that than be a shepherd. Saul had introduced him to Uilleam and he’d been walling ever since. Jilly was in her last year at school and about to take Advanced level examinations. She was very bright, intended to study geology at university and had always been tongue tied in the presence of boys. Fingal had been different, not over bright he had always made her feel easy in his company simply because he had always been completely up front about his feelings. ‘You are pretty. May I kiss you?’ may not have been the most sophisticated of chat up lines, but it did make her fear of making a fool of herself disappear and only required a choice of response from two single word replies. ‘Yes,’ had made her life thereafter much better, simpler and more risk free. No longer single, so no longer interested in boys, she knew exactly what she would be spending her time doing, studying or courting both of which she enjoyed. Fingal was kind, generous and had refused her advances till she was protected by the pill because he had no intention of her starting her university studies pregnant. The couple had decided she would become pregnant as soon as her university finals were out of the way.

Like Fergal, many of the less academically suited, had been found ‘training opportunities’ that on the face of it did actually comply with the law, but only just. In reality such children had left school at thirteen or fourteen, rather than the official and legal age of sixteen, and had gone into full time employment much to their relief. Many had literacy problems, but as the new expression going around Bearthwaite folk went, ‘Sheep can’t read and write either and you’ll be working with a hell of a lot more of them than folk, so as long as they understand what you want off ’em, Son, you’ll do just fine.’ He been telt. “Forget about reading books. You need to focus on reading your dogs, that’s what will pay your wages not reading the papers. If you prefer comics that’s fine, for there’s a group of folk here, mostly youngsters, who draw and write comic books and they’d appreciate your custom. Kåre does the words in High Fell for them as want High Fell versions. His family have been high hill shepherds for ever.’

However, one thing hadn’t changed, the millennium old speech of the shepherds and the high hill wallers known as High Fell was undergoing a renaissance in popularity. Once down to a few scores of speakers it was now in the hundreds and still increasing in usage and the new speakers were the young who, elsewhere unemployable, had willingly taken to the flocks, the fells and the fresh clean air, or in the case of the wallers, the stone, the sky and the solitude, and to High Fell. Most of the young shepherds and wallers were lads, but there were a few lasses too, though most of the academically weak girls had been found ‘training opportunities’ much nearer sea level in the many rural industries that the Bearthwaite culture provided. As Arran Peabody had said, “You need to be conscientious, to care and to have clean hands to be successful working in a dairy. You don’t need to have GCSEs,(32) but you do need to know what you are doing to make a first class cheese that will sell for good money outside.”

~Veal, Bison and Suids~

For the Peabody sisters raising veal had become a highly profitable business venture, as had raising bison beef, Highland beef and their father Alan’s recent new venture, raising Aberdeen Angus beef cattle which they managed on his behalf. Raising rare breed sheep for the expanding specialist wool market was looking promising. The girls’ brothers were looking into breeding and raising heritage pigs, rather than just raising whatever fifty-sevens(33) piglets they could buy at the livestock market, and Vincent the local slaughterman and butcher and their dad were encouraging them. The Shaw family at Pant Pedwar kept Gloucestershire Old Spots and the boys had decided upon Tamworths and Large Blacks to start with, mostly because they were hardy and both were reputed to do well on woodland especially the smaller Tamworths. The fifty hectares [124 acres] of the recently acquired lightly forested land outside the valley that had been allocated to the Tamworths had been securely fenced to keep coneys, sheep and deer out. Appropriate shelters had been constructed and the Peabody lads and some friends were preparing to move a sounder(34) of Tamworths to their new home when it was discovered by the Beebell gamekeepers that the fenced in area was already home to a sounder of what many referred to as feral wild boar that presumably had escaped from somewhere maybe as long as half a century ago. The boys objected to the term feral wild boars since feral wild seemed to be bordering on being an oxymoron, and calling them boars, since it implied the entire sounder be male, was clearly a nonsense since there were suckling sows with humbugs(35) in the group. They decided to use the term native suid(36) rather than using any combination of feral, wild, boar or pig. It usually required explanation, but at least it was accurate and avoided confusion with the domesticated breeds.


The Beebell directors suggested two options to the lads. The first was to farm the suids as just another breed of pig and to enclose another fifty hectares for the Tamworths, and in time, as previously agreed, a further fifty for the Large Blacks if they they still desired to do so. The second option was to slaughter the suids for meat, which Vincent had said would be perfectly acceptable to eat, and continue as they had originally intended. The suids were known to be present in Scotland, but as far as anyone had been aware there had been none reported sighted in Cumbria, and all had been surprised when the population in the fenced in lightly forested rough grassland had been discovered. The Peabody lads had asked Hamilton for his take on the issue. Hamilton had said, “After you rang me up I did a bit of research on the beasts. Virtually all domestic pigs are descended from Sus scrofa the Eurasian wild pig. As you say to call them feral wild boar is ridiculous, though all the government departments involved do. They were or maybe I should say they are native to Britain, so the term feral is wholly inappropriate too. Your use of the term native is accurate as is suid.

“They were hunted to extinction some time in the middle ages, then said to have been reintroduced at a later date only to be hunted out again. I’m not sure when the current populations were imported into private collections and zoos. Some escaped in the nineties and sixty-odd others were deliberately turned loose in twenty oh-four. I suspect for sporting purposes. Both events were in the the Forest of Dean, and the two populations became one that thrived. It is believed that the animals now present in the UK are not pure bred wild pigs but the results of past crosses with domesticated pigs which is why they grow bigger than pure bred wild pig and have much enhanced fecundity. Unlike wild European animals they are said to reach sexual maturity in their first year and litter sizes are six to ten which is twice what sows bear in the wild. I’ve read that they are good mothers and having two litters a year is common place rather than having just one in the spring like their pure bred wild sisters. Gestations are said to be three months, three weeks and three days [114-117 days] as for domestic pigs. Top estimates for numbers in Britain are currently of the order of five to six thousand. To put that into perspective, it’s believed that there are about seven hundred thousand in France and many millions across Europe.

“The legal situation is tricky, the farmed ones over here are subject to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, nineteen seventy-six and the The Wildlife & Countryside Act, nineteen eighty-one which makes it an offence to release wild animals not normally found in the wild in the UK, but they are native here so the act was amended to specifically include them by name in twenty ten. The twenty oh-eight DEFRA document, ‘Feral Wild Boar in England: An Action Plan’ states that ‘free roaming wild boar are feral wild animals’, and do not belong to anyone. As far as I could discover it made no mention of attempts to domesticate them. I see no reason why you can’t legally do so as the act also states that responsibility for controlling ‘feral wild animals’ rests with individual land owners and land managers, however, it stops short of requiring land owners to control ‘feral wild boar’, instead the document leaves decision making to individual land owners and local communities. If the land owner has the shooting rights and appropriate firearms certificates it is perfectly legal to control the populations by shooting. Quite frankly it’s an arse covering document, but as I see it, if you want to manage them as pigs you are entitled to do so subject to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act nineteen seventy-six. No part of the system is going to give you a hard time for taking local control of a situation they admit is out of control nationally. Beebell owns the land and you are rent free tenants with shotgun licences, so are free to manage them as you see fit.

“Estate workers in Scotland who meet with them virtually daily say they pose little if any threat to humans when left alone, and though mothers with young can appear threatening, if given the opportunity they will run away taking their brood with them. It’s true they can carry pests and diseases that can be passed on to domestic pigs and humans, but domestic pigs can do that as well. That’s why official advice is never to eat uncooked or rare pork, and anyone who ignores that advice is stupid. If you feed them and gradually allow them to associate human presence with food eventually they will become domesticated and handleable. It may take a long time, but it is doable, After all it’s been done before, probably dozens of times all over the world. That’s how we managed to obtain all our domesticated breeds of pig. In South America it’s been done with the new world pigs, the peccaries, too. Then we should be able to treat them the same as your domestic pigs for all the usual pig problems. You can always shoot any individuals that pose any particular problems. I’m sure Livvy would be happy to oblige you. What I’m saying is I have no feelings about it either way. The decision is yours. Keeping them would probably involve you in more work till they become domesticated. We’re possibly talking about as many as fifty individuals in that sounder, but it’s hard to say because the humbugs are hard to spot in woodland a foot deep in dead leaves and rough grass. If you do decide to keep them it may be an idea to cull a few of the larger boars now and some sows at the back end,(37) but like I said it’s your call, Lads. Whatever you decide I’ll do whatever I can for you, just let me know.”

~Taking Control of One’s Environment – Tuskers~

Hamilton had paused for thought and added, “Just one thing you may perhaps think worthy of consideration. There’re a couple of hundred maybe two fifty hectares of lightly wooded bracken covered land at the top of the valley over to the left of Pant Pedwar as you are facing the pack pony trail. The trees are mostly Scots pine with a few oaks. At the moment sheep graze the scarce and poor grass from between the heavy cover of bracken ignoring the bracken and the bramble, but the land would be considerably improved by the elimination of the bracken and the brambles and putting down to a wild pasture grass mix for grazing. There are Alpine pasture grass and wild flower mixtures readily available that if mixed with some of the local hay seed that Pete Hallet obtains by running a combine harvester over his flatter grazing land would produce a superb old fashioned grassland at a not too ridiculous price. Reclaiming the land as high altitude pasture would be a difficult task even were the trees not to be there because bramble doesn’t respond readily to weed killers, not even glyphosphate types like Roundup® and bracken is even less responsive to it. And of course glyphosphate is bloody expensive and not nice stuff to use in any quantity. Bracken is tough, very tough, it’s reckoned to be the commonest plant in the world and it grows on every continent except Antarctica, and it’s hells own difficult to get rid of.

“However, pigs can do the task, they were used for centuries to root up and eat bracken rhizomes(38) which are toxic to most livestock. What bramble they don’t eat they’ll leave to dry and die on the surface. Pigs are uniquely suited to bracken eradication, as unlike other livestock, they are resistant to the various toxins and carcinogens present in the rhizomes. They will happily eat green bracken and its rhizomes, although they would need supplementary feeding. All of which seems to have been forgotten with the advent of modern mechanical farming methods which seems to boil down to using bigger equipment and nastier chemicals. Any pigs up there would need adequate shelters provided, for it’s bleak and exposed up there in the colder months, and any pigs selected for the task would need to be hardy, though all pigs will use dead vegetation to line and insulate their sleeping quarters with and though there’s more than enough dried bracken up there for the purpose a few straw bales wouldn’t go amiss.

“The suids would be ideal, and if you threw handfuls of grain or feed nuts into the bracken that would encourage them to ratch for the food, and in the process they would root up and eat the bracken rhizomes. You’d need to spend an hour or two up there every day which would help to domesticate them. That would initially involve a lot of work for little reward, but over time I suspect would pay you dividends. If you decide to go for it I’ll speak to Chance or Murray to instruct the wallers and the fencers to do whatever is required and to get you some money for undertaking land improvement on behalf of Beebell who would of course stand the cost of the enclosure and the pasture seed. I’m sure that would be enough to cover most of their feed and any shortfall I’ll suggest you pay in meat at the back end. Vincent would deal with it at no direct cost by selling the prime cuts to his usual outside hotel customers on our behalf and take his costs out of that. He’d also prepare the rest to assist those who would be grateful for a bit of help. I’m sure there will be issues to be ironed out, but it’s obviously doable.”

Gunni Peabody said, “I’ll talk to my brothers about it, Hamilton, and I’ll find out what my sisters have to say too, and get back to you. Thanks for your time and the advice.” Gunni, the youngest of the four Peabody boys, and his brothers decided to take the hard route, and by the following year had two widely separated fifty hectare enclosures each complete with its sounder of domestic pigs, and the now enclosed land at the head of the valley for the Tuskers, as the native suids had been dubbed by Gunni. Tuskers was a name which had caught on, for it was appropriately descriptive, accepted and widely used. Hamilton would prove to be correct. The Tuskers were to clear the land at the valley head in a mere three years, and once that had been done their now much more numerous sounder was moved on to another bracken infested area of land. The Tuskers had found their niche in the agricultural practices of Bearthwaite in the same way that Marigold Armstrong’s goats that were used for trashing(39) had. Hamilton had also been correct when he’d said the suids would eventually become domesticated, but by the time their population had become domesticated none of the original animals were alive.

One of Gunni’s better ideas had come about as a result of remembering Hamilton telling him that it was believed that the Tuskers found in Britain were in fact native suid domestic pig crosses which accounted for their larger size and greater fecundity that their pure bred cousins. He had wondered if a further injection of domestic pig into the Tusker bloodline would provide a greater supply of meat. As a result he’d had two further fifty hectare enclosures created and one contained a dozen one year old large black sows and a mature Tusker boar, the other a dozen one year old Tusker sows and a mature large black boar. All the sows produced humbug striped young and the young boars were all barrowed at the first opportunity. Once weaned the young sows sired by the Tusker were all put in the other enclosure containing the large black boar and his entourage ready for impregnation with further domestic pig genetics. The Tusker boar was left with his harem of large black sows to breed more first crosses. The young barrows were placed with the main sounder of Tuskers. It was no surprise to the brothers that the barrows and their sisters grew to a greater size than the Tuskers. All the first generation crosses looked like large Tuskers. Exactly where the experiments were going not even Gunni knew, but it was his intention to keep introducing more large black genes till the offspring ceased to look and behave like Tuskers and then to backtrack a generation or two. For the foreseeable future he intended to maintain his sounder of Tuskers with no extra domestic blood for their bracken clearing abilities and to enjoy the extra income from the meat sales of the Large Black cross Tusker strain.

~Managed Venison~

In the mean time the wild deer were being managed as a food resource in huge but fenced areas of land, and for the first time in decades there were no longer any emaciated deer dying from starvation seen over the colder months. The Bearthwaite rangers were feeding them hay and enriched hay nuts over the winter. The hay was supplied by farmers all over the valley who preferred selling it to Beebell for though the price they received was lower than selling it to outsiders the money remained within the Bearthwaite economy and ultimately their remuneration was greater, for the rangers would drop them off a venison carcass as part of the payment from time to time, and as a matter of routine the rangers rehung sagging gates and did other maintenance work, mostly on the few remaining fences, as they went about their business. The enriched hay nuts were supplied by Greg Armstrong who produced them from locally grown ingredients made to formulae provided by the livestock industry feed association. The rangers periodically culled the deer herds to maintain population levels at what the land could support rather than allowing over population to damage the vegetation and the environment that the deer depended upon for survival. The meat was welcome at Bearthwaite and sold for a good price outside the valley too. All land, and the game on it, owned by Beebell was fenced and managed. However, there were more than enough folk of the Tree Huggers Incorporated(40) persuasion who objected to the culling of the deer, but as Adalheidis pointed out they were wasting their time. It had been the case since ten sixty-six that unless selt with retained rights the land included all the game to be found on it whether managed or no.

I'm currently working on material for GOM 52 and on getting GOM 48,49, 59, 51 ready for posting.

1 Frog spawn is laid in clumps in shallower water and is usually the earliest in the year to be laid. Frog tadpoles are black and tend to stick together in a writhing mass when they first hatch. As tadpoles develop, they become a mottled brown and don’t shoal. Immature frogs grow their back legs first. Toad spawn is laid in long strings, usually wrapped around vegetation in slightly deeper water than frog spawn is to be found in. Toad tadpoles remain jet black and they often shoal. Like frogs they grow their back legs first. Eft [newt] eggs are laid individually and wrapped in submerged plant leaves. The larvae which in Bearthwaite are called tadpoles too have a frill of gills behind their heads. Unlike frogs and toads they grow their front legs first.
2 To Bearthwaite folk, tadpol, not the usual tadpole used elsewhere, is a generic term that refers to all amphibian larvae. Their use of the specific words, frogpol, toadpol and eftpol goes back centuries.
3 A glacial erratic is a glacially deposited rock differing from the type of rock native to the area in which it rests. Erratics, which take their name from the Latin word errare, to wander, are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres. Erratics can range in size from pebbles to large boulders such as Big Rock, [16 500 000Kg, 36 300 000 pounds] in Alberta, Canada. All glacially transported rocks and erratics tend to show evidence of that glacial transport, with striations (scratches), rounded edges and polished faces.
4 HO scale, one in eighty-seven scale on sixteen point five millimetre gauge track. OO scale is more common in the UK. It uses the same track as HO, but at a scale of one in seventy-six. Globally there are several N gauge scales. N gauges exist between one in one four eight and one in one sixty in different parts of the world.
5 The heat taken out of the ground referred to is the latent heat of fusion. It is the energy required to change solid ice, in this case as sleet, at its melting freezing point [0 ℃, 32 ℉] to liquid water at the same temperature, which is taken from the ground and the air.
6 Artic, an articulated heavy goods vehicle, an eighteen wheeler.
7 Lonning, a Cumbrian word for a lane. Usually a small lane in the countryside, but not exclusively so. Cuddy Lonning is a two vehicle wide metalled road just outside the town of Wigton. There are a number of schools and churches in the area that bear the name Saint Cuthbert’s. Cuddy is a use name of the name Cuthbert.
8 Fell(s), a fell, from the Old Norse fell or fjäll [fuh + yell, IPA fjɛl] meaning mountain, is a high and barren landscape feature, such as a mountain or moor covered hill. The term is most often employed in Fennoscandia, Iceland, the Isle of Man, parts of northern England and Scotland. Most fells in the UK are artificially maintained close cropped sward environments. Sheep, coneys and deer keep what would otherwise be woodland grazed right down. All tree seeds have long since sprouted and been eaten, nothing else other than bracken can survive against the constant grazing depredations.
9 Four ten, a 0.410 inch [10.414mm] bore shotgun loaded with shot shells well suited for small game hunting and pest control.
10 Shotgun bore size is based on the weight of a spherical lead ball, not the shot it fires, that fits the bore. The number of these that it takes to make up a pound [454g] in weight denotes the bore size. So 12 bore means 12 such spherical lead balls to the pound. The smaller the number the larger the shotgun.
11 The rifle referred to is a British military weapon that has been in service in many variants for well over a hundred years.
12 29 Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills is a non ministerial department of His Majesty’s government, reporting to Parliament.
13 RSPB, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In 2021/22 the RSPB had revenue of £157 million, 2,200 employees, 10,500 volunteers and 1.1 million members (including 195,000 youth members), making it one of the world’s largest wildlife conservation organisations. The RSPB has many local groups and maintains 222 nature reserves. It should also be noted that RSPB has been accused of being an institutional bully and there is a view that no charity should be allowed to have so much land, money and power, and that they should be taken over by the government. It is doubtful that would change anything, for all governments are the biggest bullies of those they govern and they hate competition. Like a lot of once revered charities in recent years RSPB have lost some membership once the extremely high salaries of their senior officers entered the public domain.
14 Beebell, a name originally used by the media for Bearthwaite Business Enterprises Ltd, BBEL, and subsequently adopted by Bearthwaite Business Enterprises Ltd. It is the holding company for all collectively owned assets of the Bearthwaite valley coöperative that every adult resident of Bearthwaite holds an equal share in.
15 Flail, a general term used for a machine tool designed for clearing ditches, embankments and maintaining hedges. Most are hugely powerful devices that fit on the rear of an agricultural tractor and are powered by a hydraulic pump motor arrangement drive by the Power Take Off [PTO] facility of the tractor. They consist of a hydraulic boom which is a moveable arm with the cutter attachment at the end of the boom. Offered with a choice of flail, sickle or rotary cutter heads they are operated by the tractor driver as the tractor slowly moves along the section of ditch, embankment or hedges being worked upon.
16 Brid, dialectal bird. More usually associated with Lanky, Lancashire dialect, than with Cumbrian. Here a loan word used for marketing purposes.
17 Post, like most Cumbrians Livvy pronounced the vowel in post as in pot, (IPA, pɐt).
18 Stapples, dialectal staples. Widely used over rural Cumbria pronounced stappullz. (IPA, stapᴧlʒ).
19 Bag(s), slang or maybe vernacular for udder(s).
20 Butching, the verb to butch is dialectal for the verb to butcher, so butching is butchering.
21 GP, General Practitioner, a family doctor.
22 NCSG, National Child Support Group, the umbrella organisation referred to elsewhere. In reality there is no official such group, though unofficial mechanisms based on the idea exist in the UK.
23 A gilt is a sexually immature female pig that has not yet been put to a boar.
24 A barrow is a castrated male pig.
25 Saining is a Scottish word once widely used in northern England too for blessing, protecting, or consecrating.
26 JP, Justice of the Peace, a magistrate.
27 Brash blocks are produced from sawdust and fine chipped wood from a variety of sources all mixt with a binder, see GOM 46, and compressed to produce a solid fuel briquette approximately four inches [100mm] in diameter and of variable lengths which is determined by the way they break off as they exit the extruder tube.
28 On April the first 2023, yes that’s right, wouldn’t you know it, on April Fools Day, the local government administration of Cumbria changed. The previous six district councils and Cumbria County Council were replaced by two new unitary authorities. Carlisle City Council, Allerdale Borough Council and Copeland Borough Council were merged to form a new authority, Cumberland Council. Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council were merged to form a new authority, Westmorland and Furness Council. Cumbria County Council’s rôle was distributed to the two new Unitary Councils.
29 Eejits, idiots.
30 Tied cottage. In the UK a tied cottage is typically a dwelling owned by an employer that is rented to an employee: if the employee leaves their job they usually have to vacate the property. In this way the employee is tied to their employer. While the term originally applied mainly to cottages, it may be loosely applied to any tied accommodation from a small flat to a large house. The concept is generally associated with agricultural workers’ accommodation, but may occur in a wide range of occupations.
31 Fat tailed sheep, breeds of sheep that concentrate fat on and around the tail. The fat is regarded as an important ingredient in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine.
32 GCSE, General Certificate of Secondary Education. Examinations usually taken by 15/16 year olds in the UK in ten subjects.
33 Fifty-sevens, a widely used expression that derives from the decades old Heinz food giant’s use of ‘Heinz 57 Varieties’ as a marketing label. In this context it implies mixed mongrel piglets that could contain genetics of any and all possible breeds. The link between Heinz and 57 is now so firmly established in folks’ minds that describing an animal of any sort as a Heinz or as a 57 achieves immediate understanding that the animal is a mongrel.
34 Sounder, a collective noun used for pigs, especially of wild pigs, but not exclusively so.
35 Humbugs, young wild boar. They are horizontally striped like the humbug sweet or candy.
36 Suids, generic term for all old world pigs. It does not include the peccaries from the new world.
37 Back end, refers to the back end of the year, autumn, fall in the US.
38 Rhizome, a continuously growing horizontal underground stem which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals.
39 Trashing, the practice of tying a goat up in or near a patch of weeds, often nettles around an agricultural implement that hasn’t been moved for some time. Goats are browsers and will eat the top few inches off what ever is there. Moving them around from one such patch to another before returning them to have another go at the first one will eventually clear all the weeds or as some would have it the trash.
40 Tree Huggers Incorporated, a scathing and, some would say, pejorative reference to the trendy left who see themselves as the soldiers of God who are the only protectors of the environment.

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