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The House At Pooh Corner

Nestled snugly beneath the towering mountain created by the open cast mining close by, it is easy to miss The House at Pooh Corner, in fact it is fatal to miss it because it backs onto the deepest man made hole in Europe.

This however did not deter intrepid smallholders who gathered at Middle Stobswood Farm at the kind invitation of Gillian and Dave Booth. We had negotiated the Northumberland equivalent of the Andes in order to discover the magical and little known world of equine excrement. I confess that I faced this with some trepidation because only a fortnight previously we had all gathered in the depths of Wark Forest to discover how to Bonsai trees. On that visit it had rained on a Biblical scale and we realised that all you do to create a really great Bonsai tree is to shrink it. Of course by the time the visit was over we had shrunk as well … miniholders.

So what might happen to us at Stobswood? Actually, finding the farm was simple to anyone with my advanced map reading skills or I suppose if you were an amateur you could just read the signs which Dave Jobson had thoughtfully placed along the route. So, pausing only to admire the skilful way Anthea O’Neil had managed to park her car in what appeared to be a bottomless bog, we all gathered in the farmhouse where Dave Booth started to talk excrement. He began by explaining that they used to run a rent a loo business but the bottom had fallen out of that so they looked around for another business. Naturally, with Dave’s interest in things excremental, he and Gillian had hit on the idea of worm counting in horse dung. Now I’m not a horse person so the importance of this activity puzzled me … was it some new and practical approach to numeracy? In fact it is an extremely useful service to horse owners which ensures that they only worm their horses when necessary and do not over or under dose them.

Gillian showed us how the process is carried out in their laboratory and extremely interesting and informative it was. We then went on a tour of the farm which was fascinating because as well as all the farm sort of things you expect like fields and horses and barns and stuff (which is pretty technical and only a smallholder would understand),there was a vintage tractor and a workshop which was like something out of Harry Potter with all sorts of strange and mysterious objects in various stages of repair, a full set of theatre lights, three organs, unidentifiable machinery which looked vaguely threatening and an office with equations written on the wall which may have been mathematical or occult. Then we all went back inside for Tea which was terrific. In fact the whole afternoon was great and the hospitality from Gillian and Dave and of course Ellie was wonderful. After a really great afternoon out, we set off homeward pausing only to extricate Anthea’s car from its pit. I travelled back home surrounded by that warm glow which only a smallholder can appreciate, of having seen my first and probably last horse worm.

Jon Deas