A Visit to the Heavy Horse Show at Hay Farm, Etal

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On Saturday 11th. October, 2014 we went to the Heavy Horse Show at Etal.

It was Tom’s idea. He suggested to me that we take our Australian friends and join Tom and Dorothy in visiting the little village of Etal about half an hour south of here in England for its annual show.

I put it to Ewen and Jane and they thought that it would be a good thing for them to see. They had to leave us today so they would come with us to Etal and then continue on their way on the next stage of their holiday in Scotland.

I should introduce Ewen and Jane a little bit better. We got to know them when I was minister at Luss. There our Sunday service was broadcast on the internet and Jane and Ewen in Australia made up part of our world-wide congregation.

I remember so well the first time that they came to visit us in Luss. We didn’t know them at all but they knew all of us from sharing with us on the screens of their computers. We held a dinner party for them in Luss and invited all of the folk who normally took part in the services — Ewen and Jane knew us all by name and also quite a bit about us just from having shared with us over quite a period of time.

It was special to have them with us on that Sunday in Luss worshipping in the Church which they normally watched from afar. It was also special to have them plant a tree in the glebe as a reminder of their visit.

Well, Ewen and Jane have been in Scotland on holiday this year and they spent some time with us in our home here at Mount Pleasant.

If you have followed my blog — www.mountpleasantgranary.net — then Tom and Dorothy will need no introduction. I married them in Arrochar soon after I arrived there, Tom was my beadle in Luss for ten years, and both of them have been friends for as long as I can remember. In fact I actually met Tom for the first time when he was on a submarine in Genoa which I had to visit when I was port chaplain in the 1970s.

Well, after breakfast we all set off for Etal for the show. I had never been to a Heavy Horse Show so I had no idea what to expect.

In fact what we saw was heavy horses, Clydesdales, doing their thing at a farm called Hay Farm which specialises in heavy horses and which seems to have something for visitors to see almost all around the year. But this is a special once-a-year event.

One field was given over to parking (all beautifully organised by the local air training corps, or so it seemed to me). One field was being used by the heavy horses. There were single horses and pairs engaged in ploughing, and one horse which was occupied in harrowing. This latter was drawing attention because the owner was encouraging members of the public to have a shot of controlling the horse and Ewen was keen to take advantage of this opportunity.

So it was that Ewen marched down the field behind Lion as they harrowed. Ewen looked very good and even managed a fancy turn while he was in charge.

Meanwhile there was an opportunity to visit the other horses in their stables, each stable clearly identifying the name and particular talents of its occupier.

There was a large area given over to craft activities and stalls selling everything from sweets to jewellery, from cards to dying kits for treating fleeces (Rachel purchased one of these). Rachel also spoke for a long time to two ladies who were clearly expert spinners while I enjoyed being outside watching a blacksmith at work, seeing a builder working with lime cement while pointing an old barn, and looking at various old pieces of agricultural machinery and, among it all, an old penny-farthing bicycle!

We had coffee, some had hog-roast rolls and some enjoyed some of the sweets on offer, and all too soon Jane and Ewen had to set off on their journey. It has been great to have them with us twice during this holiday.

We had been joined at Hay Farm by my sister Olive and her husband Digger. They now left to go shopping in Berwick while Tom, Dorothy, Rachel and I decided to travel on a few minutes to visit the Estate Village of Ford (we might have visited Heatherslaw which boasts a small gauge railway and a working corn mill powered by water — the only one in Northumberland as its web-site proudly proclaims). But time was limited and so we decided to visit Ford.

At Ford we visited first the Forge. This is a now disused-as-a-forge cottage which has been set up as an antique shop. The bellows are still there and the roaring fire (which was lit), and it is staffed by delightful folk who make one’s visit a real pleasure. One really notable feature is the shape of the front door — a horseshoe.

Next we wandered down the main street until we came to the Lady Waterford Hall. We went in and found a charming guide who turned a quick look in to the hall to a full scale and memorable visit. Susan (or Susie) I think her name was.

She told us that Lady Waterford (Louisa) had married Lord Waterford who was the love of her life but who was killed in a riding accident in the mid nineteenth century. The main family lands were in Ireland but Louisa was left the Ford estate in her husband’s will. She was forty when Lord Waterford died and she devoted the rest of her life to improving the lot of her tenants here in Ford.

The old run-down estate cottages were removed and new homes created where they now are. A nurse was employed and given accommodation (and it was a condition, set down by Louisa, that tenants were not to give her refreshments when she visited because this was a drain on their limited finances).

Most notably, Louisa caused the hall which bears her name to be built and this became a school for the local people in a time when education was not yet compulsory. She wanted the school hall to be a special place and, having real artistic gifts which had been developed by her European tours when she was younger, Louisa set about decorating the hall with paintings which she did herself. It took her twenty-one years but it is still a work of art today. Down one side are illustrated stories from the Old Testament, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Moses, Samuel — nine murals in all. On the other are people from the New Testament leading to two special murals — Jesus among the doctors of the law in the Temple in Jerusalem, and Jesus blessing the children.

What makes all of these pictures unique is that Louisa used the local folk from the estate as the models for the pictures — adults and children, they are all there.

We started in a small room off the main hall where we watched a short video introducing us to Louisa and her life and then we walked around the former school and enjoyed the pictures and the stories of the people represented. It is really worth visiting and it is good to find a place so close which is so worth visiting.

Outside we looked down the main street to the statue of an angel on a pillar, Louisa’s gift in memory of her husband. From there the road continues to her castle. But for us our trip was over, we had to retrace our steps to the car and set off home for Mount Pleasant after a very happy day with friends.