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  • Writer's pictureAlistair

It’s a mucky job, but isn’t that what friends are for?!

Julian clearing the black sludge from the water troughs

Wales is wet, and Cefn Garthernor does have a fair bit of water running through it, but if I want the Galloways to “work” particular areas it is necessary that they have access not just to grazing but a reliable source of water in those specific locations. Fortunately for me, my predecessors have laid pipe from the bore hole to a series of water troughs around the farm. Essentially there is a single line of the ubiquitous blue plastic pipe running for around a kilometre along hedges and through ditches between seven troughs.

I was very grateful that on the day I completed on the purchase of the farm from the Evans family, Hefin Evans had suggested he walk the route of the pipe with me. Most of the time it is hidden, with just occasionally a bit of bright blue visible where it comes out of a hedge before going underground below a gate. In the ditches it is invisible. Hefin described how, when they had first bought the farm, they had accidentally punctured the pipe when clearing a ditch, but how it had been some time before they discovered the problem. In fact, they only put two and two together when the electricity meter never stopped turning as the borehole pump did its thing, spewing water into the drainage ditch. It had taken a while to find the actual break as water frequently flows along those ditches …

I was pretty sure that there were no leaks now but was not so sure if the actual troughs were functioning properly. In any case, the troughs were absolutely filthy, with lots of black sludge formed from rotting leaves and also algae. They were certainly no longer a source of good drinking water. They needed to be emptied and scrubbed, and the pipework and floating ball valves checked. A mucky job, but someone had to do it.

Best wait for an old mate to help, I thought. You can imagine how Julian must have enjoyed his long bank holiday weekend!

I have had huge help and support from so many people. Some, like Julian’s sister Fran, gave invaluable advice from an ecological perspective. Others got their hands dirty; Mandeep filled the skip with the plastic Emma and Chris helped collect, cleared the farm’s “garden” and helped with the habitat survey. Octavia, our daughter, managed the trip to Cefn Garthenor entirely on public transport, no mean feat, and has had to endure me droning on about such a project for years. Others simply came with lots of beer (Andy, Mike, Tim, Tom and Phil) or champagne (Pat and Roger). Thank you, all!

Let’s see how many brave a second visit …


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