Monday 5th November 2018
I love this picture – there’s so much going on. Behind is one of the best views for miles around. The historic hill on the left with the panoramic vista over the town. You can just make out how the remnants of the track drops towards the town centre – almost certainly an old pack horse trail. A strip of sunlight runs across the middle, highlighting the viaduct built in 1847. Between us is the ghastly St Peter’s Centre and to our right is the straight mile of the canal.
The three horses have run to the corner of the field to see what’s going on. Billy (son of Olive) is a proper lurcher. Mark needed an IBC tank to put diesel into, from the leaking heating tank at his mum’s old house in Grassington. He reckons it will be fine on the roof of his Skoda estate – I’m a bit wary (caution is my middle name) – it’s a very windy day.
I’ve put the tank on the trailer and pulled it up to the top of the gnarly track with the tractor – the Skoda would have struggled. Mark is from a farming background – he has a licence to collect tree seed, which he sells to nurseries.
The tractor was made in 1954. When I first considered getting a vehicle to help with the work on the field, I studied the form very carefully. Quad? Kuboto? – far too nickable. The historic Fergie was still widely available and you can still get all the parts – people are buying them up and exporting them all over the world to places like China and Africa – I thought I might have made a mistake at first, because the field is steep in places and it can get very wet, but the tractor handles it fine. This summer it pulled the bowser (weighing about a ton) up the steepest part. It’s a truly magnificent piece of engineering – so utterly simple and functional. I took me a while to work out why each rear wheel has its own brake pedal – if one wheel starts slipping, you put the brake on and all the drive goes to the other back wheel – genius.
The picture could almost have been taken fifty years ago and it represents the enormous value of a way of life that has died out in so many places. It represents an alternative to the terminally destructive consumerist madness that is the norm of today. Friends helping each other out – there’s no money changing hands – we’re not putting anything into the coffers of the already mega-rich – Mark will get me another tank and help me out on the ranch for an afternoon at some point. Both the old and the new have value, but a lot of the old is forgotten – a lot of old gardening techniques will never be bettered. A scythe and a pair of shears is honestly more efficient than a strimmer.