Tag Archives: insurance

The saga of Auldwick with Cowperthwaite village hall. Part 1, Sheep will safely graze.

Part 1 The saga of Auldwick with Cowperthwaite village hall

It was always going to be one of those days. It started with somebody hammering on the kitchen door. I put my coffee mug down and went to see who it was.

Young Geordie from Lower Daleside Farm stood there looking a bit embarrassed. “Tup’s broken out and got into t’village hall. But I fixed it.”

I put my Wellingtons on and walked down to the village hall to see what had been done. The tup glared at me sullenly from the quad trailer parked on the gravel by the hall door.

“See, I got him back out.”

I tried the door. It was still locked. “So how did you manage Geordie?”

“Oh, way he got in, round t’back.”

I accompanied the young man round the back of the hall, picking my way through a collection of old benches that had been thrown out by a previous generation and lingered on to remind us of the glory days when we’d had adequate seating.

“I fixed the hole he med.”

I looked at where Geordie was pointing. The tup had entered the village hall by the simple expedient of knocking a hole through the timber wall. Geordie had fixed it by putting an old corrugated iron sheet up against the hole and holding it in place by hammering a couple of old fence posts in.

“I did try nailing it to the main timbers but they’re so rotten I could push the nails in by hand.”

It was true. We’d long know that the back wall needed replacing. Perhaps patching it with pallet timber back in the Silver Jubilee year had been a bit short sighted.

I shrugged. “Well it’ll keep the draught out for now.”

We walked back to the quad and trailer. Geordie gestured towards the old benches. “Do you want them? I could come down with a tractor later and take them away, they’ll do for firewood.”

“Best end to them lad.”

“Tell you what; I’ll fix that leak on the roof while I’m here.”

The roof was corrugated iron and at least one of the sheets had rotted through.

“Be careful lad, I wouldn’t put any weight on the roof.”

“I’ll come down with the Loadall, I can work off that.”

“Be careful anyway.”




When I got back from town, I walked down to the village hall again. Geordie and his two younger brothers were there looking remarkably pleased with themselves.

“We fixed it Boss.”

“Good, did it take long?”

Geordie sighed. “When I saw the roof properly from the Loadall bucket, it was well knackered. Luckily we had some old black bitumen at home, so we painted the roof with that then threw an old silage sheet over it. Then we painted it again with bitumen. It’ll keep rain out grand. But me and our kid here have been here since before brew time doing it.”

I thanked them anyway. Because they’d also taken the benches away things did look a bit tidier.

I walked across the road to Wendy’s. She had obviously been watching because she opened the door before I knocked. Wendy is our Village Hall treasurer.

Before I said anything she said, “I saw what they did.”

“Well it might keep the rain out.”

She looked at me as if I were some sort of idiot. “Harry, it’s a fire risk!”

“The amount of rain we get?”

“It’s still a fire risk.”

“So what do we do about it then?”

She smiled triumphantly. “Don’t worry, I’ve already done it. I phoned the insurance company and increased the cover.”

“So what will we get if it burns down?”

Her smile faded. “Probably about five years. Seriously Harry, isn’t it time we got a new village hall?”


You might not have realised but it’s now ‘Village Halls Week.’ As somebody who, one way or another, has spent a lot of time in village halls in various places, I’m a believer in their importance. So I thought I’d celebrate them a bit. So the story will continue.
Now if you’re lucky enough to live in Cumbria there is ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, our Rural Community Council, on hand to help.


If you’re in the rest of England you want ACRE, Action with Communities in Rural England.



Alternatively if you just want a good book,

Available in paperback or as an ebook.
As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”


Can you have too much garlic?

Some years ago I remember chatting to a man who worked for the now long disbanded Milk Marketing Board. One of his jobs was working as a trouble shooter for the board, helping solve those little problems that crop up.

One problem was caused by wild garlic. A dairy herd on his patch escaped out of their field one night and wandered into the local wood where they picnicked enthusiastically on wild garlic. Being dairy cows who had merely extended their grazing range slightly, next morning, at the normal time they all made their way home for milking as usual, so when the farmer went out go collect them, they were waiting at the gate as they always did.

So he milked them and the milk went into his bulk tank. As he finished milking he got a jug of milk out of the tank for the house (because cold unpasturised milk is the finest thing in the world to drink or pour over breakfast cereals.)
The tanker driver came to collect the milk, sampled it and then sucked it into his tanker. At this point two unfortunate facts ought to be mentioned. The farmer has no sense of smell and the tanker driver had a severe cold, and therefore no sense of smell.

The farmer went in with the jug of milk, had his breakfast and was just going out again when his wife arrived home from the school run. Her first comment was along the lines of, ‘Have you been eating garlic for breakfast?”

Of course he hadn’t, but his breath smelled of it. As did the milk! Lactating mothers everywhere have to be careful what they eat because it can taint or flavour the milk.

Muttering something that might have been ‘oh dear’ he phoned the company that collected his milk. The transport manager, when things were explained to him said, ‘Oops’ (or something with a similar number of letters.) He then checked to see which dairy the tanker was delivering to and phoned them. He went on to discover that the one tanker had been used to top up three storage silos at the dairy. At this point both he and the dairy manager said ‘Lawks amercy’ and the dairy manager phoned the chap who was telling me all this.

He went to the farm and got the farmer to put a claim in on his policy. The MMB used to insist we all had that sort of cover, I think it might even have been arranged through them.

Then he went to the dairy and stood next to the manager and stared hard at the three silos.

Now in theory they could have just had it carted away and disposed off as waste because the insurance company would pay for it. But the rep from the insurance company came and joined them in the yard to survey the damage, and he suggested that perhaps something could be done to save a total loss.

So my contact remembered a small butter making plant he’d worked with in the past. He’d got them a contract to make kosher butter. They didn’t do it all the time, but when asked they’d stop the plant. Then they’d clean everything absolutely spotlessly, and with a rabbi in attendance they’d make the kosher butter. Then they’d get on with making ordinary butter. They quite liked the contract. Not only did they get to do a few extra really good deep cleans each year; they got paid to do them.

Anyway they took this wild garlic tainted milk and made garlic butter. Which is fair enough, so far so good. But who is going to buy a considerable quantity of butter which includes a purely arbitrary amount of garlic. My contact did try, but there were no takers, so it was sold to the Intervention Board. They paid a base price for it, thus saving the insurance company and other policy holders a reasonable amount of money. Indeed you, dear reader, might even be one of the people who benefited indirectly from it.

Several years later the Intervention Board, despairing of ever selling any of this butter, sold it to the East Germans who burned it in power stations.


At least there’s always the consolation of a good book,

As a reviewer commentated “I always enjoy Jim’s farming stories, as he has a way of telling a tale that is entertaining but informative at the same time. I’ve learned a lot about sheep while reading this book, and always wondered how on earth a sheepdog learns to do what it does – but I know now that a new dog will learn from an old one. There were a few chuckles too, particularly at how Jim dealt with unwanted salespeople. There were a couple of shocks regarding how the price of cattle has decreased over the years, and also sadly how the number of UK dairy farms has dropped from 196,000 in 1950 to about 10,000 now.
Jim has spent his whole life farming and has acquired a wealth of knowledge, some of which he shares in this delightful book.”