I was born in Birmingham but spent most of the school holidays with my family in Herefordshire on Yatton Hill at a ‘holiday’ cottage that was really back to basics with no running water and no electricity. At dusk we lit the paraffin lamps and we went to bed with nightlights for company and listened to the owls hooting overhead. Once I stayed there with my aunt and she often told the story of me asking what the noise was. “It’s just an owl hooting,” my aunt said. “Yes,” I replied, “But Auntie, what’s he saying?”
There was a track three quarters of a mile long to get up to the cottage and we had to carry all our food and drinking water with us. In the summer we managed to drive up the track in our A35 van but we had to constantly fill in the ruts with rock that we dug out of an old limestone quarry. I learned to use all my father’s tools, I could confidently wield an axe and a billhook and spent many hours chopping wood and cutting down nettles and bracken. We explored the fields, I learned from my aunt the names of the trees and the wild flowers and the birds. Me and my sister spent wonderful summer days climbing hills and sliding down haystacks – and helped with lambing and bale-lugging on the local farm.
So this is how my love of the countryside, the wildlife and farming began. I now have my own smallholding of 4 acres of fields, garden, wild flowers and vegetables with hens, ducks and rabbits and a barmy Betsy dog, half Yorkshire terrier that we rescued from Wolverhampton, abandoned by gypsies.