9 April 1999

More than just hot air

SOME people have the enviable ability to cram more into life and get more out of it than the rest of us mortals put together. Successful Berkshire farmer David Liddiard is one of that ilk.

Conventional education stopped at 14 when he started work for a stern taskmaster father, but this was probably the time when he jumped on his own personal learning curve. Dyslexia proved no impediment to a shrewd business acumen, an aptitude for quick mental arithmetic and the ability to spot a bargain where others can only see difficulties.

That has included an eye for property using high-quality reclaimed and second-hand materials to turn ruins into highly desirable residences for family and staff. Modern piggeries, dairy units and grain stores presented no problems – they were built to budget as and when required.

David Liddiards horizons were widened and well and truly heightened when he took up hot air ballooning with his customary enthusiasm. The sport has literally taken him all over the world.

Service to the Young Farmers Club, Newbury Show and local politics just seemed to have slotted into a full and happy married life.

His story, as told by fellow balloonist Jennifer dAlton, is out of the common rut. The text cheerfully ignores formal biographical treatment and skips all over the place in hectic fashion. But it fits the man, his times, his work, his pleasures and the 120% effort he still puts into life. HPH

*Barley and Balloons – David Liddiard remembers, by Jennifer dAlton, Traeth Publications, Pen Ffordd, Newport, Pembs (£9.99).

A true natural in verse

ROSEMARY Hankinss work has appeared in Farmlife on many occasions. She is the author of several Readers Spot features about family life and some outstanding verse.

The latter is the more difficult medium but the one in which she excels, using words sparingly, accurately and eschewing sing-song rhymes to describe her feelings and reflect on life.

As a young woman, Rosemary trained as a nurse in a London hospital and planned to travel the world one day. Instead she met and married a Northamptonshire farmer, had four children and is now grandmother to 10.

That her life is a full, happy and satisfying one is clear from the collection of her poetry now published in book form*.

Many Farmlife readers will identify with her through poems such as Pony Club Trials, for example; Errand Girl which is the boast of a "qualified gofer", and in Next Day, six moving verses on the morning after a daughters wedding.

This last mentioned poem is a poetry Digest award winner, while Rosemarys book has won an award from Writers News. AC

*Mainspring by Rosemary Hankins, Washbrooke Publications, Watford Road, West Haddon, Northants NN6 7BE (£4).

Cleaner water brings back the kingfisher

SIGHTINGS of our most colourful bird have increased by 28.5 per cent since 1995 in the north of England thanks to environmental improvements.

That most dashing of fishermen, the kingfisher, is enjoying an increase in numbers thanks to cleaner water supplies in the Mersey Basin catchment.

Throughout the whole of this catchment area, which stretches from Crew to Pendle and from Wirral to Derbyshire, 905 sightings of kingfishers were reported. Between May and September, 19 sightings alone were reported in Chorley, five in Sefton and 71 throughout East Lancashire. Bird Watchers spotted kingfishers on the canals, rivers and streams of West Lancs on 37 occasions during a five-month period.

More than 1,400 volunteers carried out the government-backed survey in support of the Mersey Basin Campaign (MBC) which works to clean up what was once one of Europes most polluted river systems.

A drop in the kingfisher population can, in part, be attributed to poor water quality. "Being at the top of the food-chain, kingfishers are very pollution sensitive and their presence is a good sign that all is well with their environment," said an MBC spokesman. "It is very encouraging to see an increase in the numbers of this bird in areas which have, in the past, been known for poor water quality."