16 January 1998

Tempting him to take break

IT was one of those dull days after last Christmas. I say dull meaning short, dark days and that flat feeling following the festivities.

But, over the holiday, daughter and her husband had offered to come home and take over for a few days in May so that dad and I could take a short, welcome break after lambing. Now was the day to plan.

Weve arrived at that age when driving far does not appeal and I thought another coach holiday might fit the bill. We had tried one a few years earlier and had enjoyed sitting back, looking over hedges and letting someone else take the strain.

My suggestion was greeted by a few grunts from behind the farmers weekly. Husband really likes to be at home with his animals and its comforts. Id got to choose a destination with an appealing bait.

Most holidays we have managed during 41 years of marriage have had farming links. A comparative non-farming bride, I was soon initiated on "how it is with farming". Consequently on our honeymoon spent near Oxford, we visited two cattle markets as well as Ann Hathaways cottage.

The high point of a holiday in the Lake District was our trip to Carlisle market, not Hadrians Wall. Compared to our small markets in Sussex that was an eye opener.

Other holiday photos include markets at Skipton, Louth, York and Shrewsbury. Slightly different photos appeared after our "once in a lifetime" trip to Kenya to visit our son who was working there. As well as taking us on safari (whow!) he took us to a Manyatta (Masae village) where we were soon shown goats and sheep being wormed.

Back to 1997, it was difficult to synchronise coach destinations with markets, which are becoming a rare species. Even our own Hailsham market, the last cattle market in Sussex is being fought over in the House of Lords. Then I noticed one schedule included a three-hour stop in Barnstaple. That was bait enough.

And so it was. The coach driver was a local lad with good knowledge of the diverse countryside and history, keeping the whole coach interested. The hotel was fantastic, a real treat and Barnstaple unwittingly provided that extra something.

The coach actually set us down next to a sheep skin curer. Our companions disappeared within seconds but we spotted a notice offering tours of the plant. Three hours later we were just about ready to board the coach with the others. Wed had a great time watching the whole process and I soon realised how pathetic my own efforts to cure a skin had been.

As well as holiday photos we now look at our sheep in quite a different light. But thats how it is with farming.

Anne Bourner