Amongst the many joys of living in a house that was once the heart of an Exmoor hill farm, isolated and self-sufficient, are the unexpected things from a bygone age that turn up on occasion.

Over a long period, for many months the ground was too wet to get the big digger onto the site, we have re-worked our ‘top pond’. Over the years it had silted up with the run-off from the road blocking incoming field drains. IMG_1982Once the digger had done its work, I have been preparing the surrounding ground using the Quad to pull my small harrow, clocking up five miles round and round the pond, to work the bare, IMG_1968and dusty, earth for wildflower seeding. As a consequence a huge number of stones have been brought to the surface. I have collected a trailer load – where are those stone-picking Victorian school children when you need them?

One of the ‘stones’ I collected was triangular in shape. On closer examination after chipping away the dense earth attached, it turned out to be a long-lost, surely Victorian, iron plough shear. On another occasion, we found the closing hook from an old broken-down gate lying half buried, a prime example of the local blacksmith’s work, beaten out from a single length of metal. IMG_1969Also, still fitted on a larder door, there was a metal latch hand made on an anvil, as were the many horseshoes we’ve unearthed. The ‘pruning hook’, perhaps more a sickle, IMG_1976was my father’s and dates from the 1930s bearing his initials, PGT, burned onto the handle as he did with many of his working tools.

All these things tell a story, each is their own notebook, the equivalent of the notebooks all writers must have with them as they go about their day, noting down maybe only a word, a single sentence or more, that one day can be worked into a piece of writing. IMG_1973Over the years the notebooks accumulate, their jottings within being a seedbed of ideas for writing, maybe only a paragraph of fiction, or memorabilia, perhaps a verse of poetry. And some of those notebook seedlings will later prosper as the trigger of a short story, a novel or a script.


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