Saturday, 30 November 2019

We have had a great few days at the Nuffield Farming Conference where returning scholars come back to give their reports having travelled the world studying a variety of topics.
The topics ranged from robot tractors to farming insects with eggs, the environment, silos, pigs, soft fruit, water sustainability, managing pesticides, carcass grading, anaerobic digesters, slugs and genomics in between.
Did you know that slug slime can make great face masks as the slime contains all sorts of antiaging properties? Lovely!
A scholar from Zimbabwe gave a very moving account of how he was forced out of his family farm by the Mugabe brutes and how it had affected him. He has started a new life in the UK and by all accounts is doing really well, but you could see the emotional scars were still very raw.
It is always a really stimulating conference with so many different ideas and challenging thoughts and great to catch up with old friends.
In the meantime Sarah and Maria worked the horses - Sarah is now kitted out with one of our new heart rate monitors so she can send us the readings on her phone after she has done a piece of work. It is a great way of seeing how hard they have worked and checking on their fitness.
They certainly seemed very well when we turned them out this morning - Secret just exploded just before I had unhooked her rope and knocked me flying, she then proceeded to gallop over the top of me. When I rode her on Wednesday she suddenly fly leaped in the air and I was looking down on Sarah's head who was riding Ted - Neck straps from now on!
Secret last season. She has grown since and is feeling rather too well!

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Yesterday Doug went to Birmingham as we had heard that there was a protest against the way HS2 were treating people. It was organised by the Taroni family who have a number of scrap yards in Birmingham most of which are affected by HS2 and they haven't been paid what they are owed and are not leaving their property until the bill has been settled. Anyway it is just as well Doug went because up until now we assumed that HS2, being a government body, were reasonably honourable and would pay compensation on the date of vacant possession. However, Doug heard from numerous people who believed the same, had handed over the keys to their property and had not been paid a penny - One man's house had been possessed, he had been promised a certain amount of compensation and bought another house with a loan. Eighteen months later he still hasn't been paid for the original house and he is now living in his car as he has not been able to pay for the second house and has racked up huge bills. Another lady has had her house and business compulsory purchased, she vacated the property, the agreed compensation was not paid, squatters have moved in and wrecked the place and now HS2 are saying that they are only going to pay 50% of the value now because it has been devalued by the squatters. There were stories of suicide attempts, broken marriages and most of the people he spoke to were on anti depressants. So many horror stories and quite unbelievable that these things can happen in a civilised society.
Now we know how dishonest HS2 are we will not be vacating Blackgrounds until our compensation has actually been paid. Thank goodness we found out. The Taroni family and their employees have pledged to come to Blackgrounds on the possession date (30th January) to see off the bailiffs and they are not to be messed with!!  We have also had an awful lot of support from lovely friends who will also help us in our cause. There are people a lot worse of than us and we will ensure that the word is spread so that everyone who is affected by this crazy railway line is fairly treated and paid for what has been possessed.
Anyway, all good on other fronts  The horses are going well and we had a great night out last night with some good friends. It isn't all doom and gloom....!

Monday, 18 November 2019

Cheltenham was cancelled on the Friday so we went on Saturday instead and saw a wonderful eight race card with some fantastic races. We then drove on down to Devon and stayed at the Stag hunters Inn in Brendon where we had a delicious supper and a very sociable evening with the locals. The following morning we went for a walk admiring the beautiful countryside and then went on to the brand new point to point course near Silverton.
We couldn't believe how many people were there and it was great racing. Paige Topley who rode out for us at the end of last season had a third with her horse which she trains with her Dad, David. It was only her fourth ride and she rode beautifully and did well to come third. It won't be long before she has her first winner.
Stunning Exmoor countryside

The conditions race

Paige getting her prize for first novice rider home

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

To say it has been somewhat wet would be an understatement but to be fair we have not had any near as much rain as they have had up North. Our thoughts go out to those affected by the floods, particularly in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

The river at the bottom of our field has broken its banks

Jess and Bea's field - They are now in the barn chomping hay

I have to say that I love it when the river is up like this - A few years ago when it was seriously flooded I rather foolishly decided it would be a good idea to do a bit of 'body surfing' in the white water. I donned my wet suit and got in the rushing water - It was fabulous and I was whizzing along  - I was just thinking what fun it was when I hit the concrete bridge which I had completely forgotten about as the water had completely covered it - It hit my chest (rather hard) and I got sucked under, I then popped up and continued to hurtle down the river for some way until I managed to grab hold of a branch and get out of the current before the next bridge. It was a long walk home in my wet suit and bare feet but seriously good fun - I might add that this should not be tried at home unless accompanied by a responsible adult....
The Harkin Team did a great job at Blackgrounds while we were away. All horses, dogs, chickens and pigs looked extremely well and didn't look as though they had missed us at all.  The horses have now started to do slow canter work on the all weather with a seven mile hack and a lot of trotting up hills in between. Maria, the Spanish dressage rider and ex bull fighter (how glamorous does that sound?!) is getting on very well with the flat work and also comes on the long hacks with us making the horses work really hard. 
We are hoping to run Top Garry and Ted Thistle at Ampton on the 12th January and then Thorpe on the 26th January. Glory Hunter may go to Chaddesley Corbett after Christmas just for a pipe opener as there isn't really a race for him as the restricted is 2.5 miles which won't suit as he is an out and out stayer. Secret Getaway will probably wait until Thorpe.
We are hoping to go to Cheltenham on Friday and have had a rather busy few days since we got back from Japan catching up with work, friends and family. We went to a wonderful 60th Birthday party for Caroline Bailey on Sunday and it was mainly racing people and farmers who attended. Lovely people who I have known most of my adult life. It was a very special occasion. It made us realise what a big thing it is for us to be pushed out of our area by HS2 and how much we will miss all our fabulous friends.
On the point of HS2 we have been given notice to leave Blackgrounds by the 30th January. We were hoping that the scheme would be scrapped but it looks as though it is definitely going ahead now.  What an insane waste of money...

Thursday, 7 November 2019

We are back!! Having had the most amazing experience ever. The Japanese were fantastic hosts and really got into the spirit of the rugby - Oh we had some fun!!  We had a certain corner on the road outside the bar where we stood after every match and met some fabulous characters and made some very good friends who we will be definitely keeping in touch with. It was a pity that England didn't win the final but the best team won on the day. The speech the black SA captain gave after the game was very moving and it made everyone realise how important the game was to unify the country as the political situation has sadly deteriorated in South Africa recently. It is incredible how Rugby unifies everyone from every walk of life. A great sport and an unforgettable experience..

England standing up to the Haka - A fantastic game

A very excited South African supporter

This lovely Japanese couple had been to four Rugby World Cups - They had seen more of Britain and Europe than we had!"

Rachel and Wes with a avid English supporter

John on the left (Winston Churchill) was an aircraft engineer and had been to Japan on 29 previous occasions.
Sonny Bill Williams, a very famous NZ player retired and gave his boots to this supporter in the crowd

 In between matches we travelled the country with a rail card and went on the bullet trains which were incredible, doing 250 mph. We went to Kyoto and saw some of the beautiful countryside and then on to Hiroshima which was a very sobering and poignant experience.

One of the only buildings to have survived the atomic bomb where over 200,000 people were killed.

A bronze in memory of the innocent children that were killed by the atomic bomb. It was a very moving experience.
We enjoyed some authentic Japanese teriyaki

Japanese ladies in traditional dress

Many beautiful temples

The Japanese are crazy about their dogs and we saw more dogs in prams than babies!!


Saturday, 19 October 2019

Well done England!!  40-16 against Australia. A great score. It was a bit of a risk getting tickets just for the semi final and final as neither England or Australia might have made the top four but luckily it has paid off. Phew! The last time we made a World Cup final was in 2003 when England won. That was one of the most special days ever. It is unlikely to happen this time however, as New Zealand are playing out of this world at the moment but it should be a fabulous semi final nonetheless.
Sooo excited!

Thursday, 17 October 2019

 We have been rushing about trying to get organised for our trip away but Sarah and I found time to go Autumn hunting this morning - Ted started off going backwards more quickly than he has ever gone forwards, and then Garry got a bit excited and started to do the same! However, they both settled in the end and were able to relax and both thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
We have got a new girl who has just started riding out for us - her name is Maria, she is Spanish and used to be a bull fighter on horseback - Wow! She is also a very good dressage rider which will be good for getting the horses to work in the right outline and using the right muscles.
Top Garry first time hunting - Looking a little excited

Ted Thistle and Top Garry