'Glad to see an end to 2020' - Anne-Marie Hamilton

Muntjac deer are seen on the farm in Hail Weston. 

Muntjac deer are seen on the farm in Hail Weston. - Credit: ANN-MARIE HAMILTON

I don’t think that there will be too many tears shed for 2020. Its final malevolent twist must surely have been the torrential downpours which occurred during the early hours of Christmas Eve.

Whilst some of our land flooded badly, it was nothing compared with the distress that so many home and business owners must have felt as they found their properties suffering severe damage, just as they were preparing to celebrate Christmas, which had already necessitated changes of plan for many.

After such a wearing year, that must have been the final straw. The scenes on television were heart-breaking. The only good thing to come out of it was the kindness of neighbours and strangers who, once again, stepped up to help those who needed it. The pandemic has truly produced many unsung heroes and heroines.

I knew that the flooding on the farm would cause Rob some heartache – not because the crops were under water but because, like his father before him, he is a ‘drainage fanatic’, and regards every seriously wet patch of land as a personal insult.

Rob’s father was a great believer in regularly maintaining all the drains and ditches on our farm in Ireland and, indeed, it was a real necessity, as a lot of the ground was covered in a rich silt which hid bottomless bog land beneath it. He passed this knowledge on to Rob, and was absolutely right. If you get the basics of land management sorted out, the rest follows.

It has been a constant source of frustration to Rob that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today, seems to ignore the massive importance of effective land drainage, and ceased funding drainage schemes many years ago, with the result that, because of the high costs involved, many younger farmers today have been unable to invest in it, and their land has suffered accordingly. The family have teased Rob for years about his obsession, but in fairness, because of it, we still have drains that were put through this farm in Napoleonic times, and are still in good, working order.

When I saw the flooded fields on Christmas Eve, I had a quiet bet with myself about how long Rob would last before he went on the prowl to find out what was wrong. I lost my bet, as he actually managed to wait until first light on December 27.

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So, what of the new? Well, it is cheering to see the days slowly drawing out again, and who could not be delighted with the news of vaccines starting to be rolled out?

Rob has had his first Covid haircut of the year. Tommy, our terrier, sat watching operations with a slight smirk on his face, whilst I tackled Rob’s mop with the nail scissors. You could almost see Tommy thanking his lucky stars that it was not summer, or he would have been next in line. I really don’t know why both of them get so anxious. After all, as I have reminded them before, I used to win prizes with the ponies in the “Best Turned Out” classes!

The other wonderful thing that seems to be dominating the early days of 2021 is that I appear to have acquired a brand new gardener. I was astonished to look out of the kitchen window in broad daylight this week, to see a muntjac deer, busily ‘trimming’ my shrubs in the back garden. I hope that he won’t be too enthusiastic, but on the other hand, he is saving me a great deal of work.

The latest lockdown is a big disappointment, but it is worth taking the long view and realising that there is finally hope out there. Nature is still a great comfort, and the sight of the first snowdrops in the garden, really lifted my spirits. We have all learned to appreciate the simpler things in life over the last few months, and with this in mind, I wish you a very happy new year, and look forward to life getting better as time moves on, in 2021.