Digglum Bestiaruim ~ The Digglers' Crest

The Digglers

Initial Catalyst

By 1982 I was fed up with the livery scenario. I was paying quite a lot of money per week to keep my horses. Money that reaped no reward, so I decided I could use that amount of money to get a place of my own. Also my mucking out tools were being used by other liveries. Not that I minded but on occasions they were left dirty or in places I couldn't find them. Food for my horses was also being used. Enough was enough and I started to look for a place of my own.

The Piece Of Land

It was only by chance that I found my haven. I was speaking to the former manageress of Fenns Farm, the equestrian centre where Whisky (short for Whisky Mac) and I were schooled. She told me that some acreage plus a barn was for sale. So off I trot (forgive the pun) to have a look. Well, what a scraggy patch it was. There were sixteen acres in all, split by other fields belonging to the local farmers. The barn, if you can call it that, as time had almost demolished it, was sited across the road and was surrounded by cottages. I had visions of angry neighbours as I accumulated a muckheap! A combination of high altitude (900' above sea level), a harsh and wet climate, poor drainage and thin soils gave rise to poor land. Would anyone in their right mind even consider purchasing such a place? The category of right mind ruled me out so it was ok for me to make an offer. I was not too keen on the barn. I knew I would have to spend a considerable amount on housing my horses but apart from the building the barn presented too many problems. Already mentioned was the sitting of the muck heap but I was none too tickled with the prospect of trying to get my horses across an icy road in winter and probably in the dark to the fields. I also did not want the responsibility of sixteen acres, being far too much for two horses. Across from the barn was a nice little parcel of five acres with access to the road. There was also a stream that ran down through the field. Access to water was of course essential. There was hardly any grass on the field. The stream had become overgrown by vegetation and was consequently flooding the land, (the main vegetation being bullrushes). Wow, this was going to be a challenge. I therefore made an offer on the five acres and try for planning permission for a stable block and if unsuccessful, I would consider the barn. The owner was agreeable as some acreage would still be available for the purchaser of the barn.

Field For Sale View of 5 Acre field View of 5 Acre field

The Plans

The next step was to employ an architect to produce plans to present to the council. I had contacted the council explaining my intention. The town planner was not very hopeful. The land was situated in the green belt, if I was housing farm animals I would not have a problem. However, horses were classed as leisure animals and this was a different matter. I don't think Whisky and Toby (short for Tobias) would have put themselves in that category! It was also pointed out that if permission was granted, I would have to comply with the local buildings, that is to build in stone. They would certainly not entertain any wooden constructions. So be it. Armed with this information, I returned to the architect and between us we came up with some suitable plans. He too was not very optimistic, I was surrounded by doom and gloom merchants! However, the plans were duly submitted and the wait began. The plans had to pass two councils, the local area council and finally on to the town council therefore, the wait was prolonged. Eventually the envelope containing their verdict arrived. I sat looking at it for several hours. What was I doing, this was an enormous enterprise, one that would change my life. I took a long swift drink, tore open the envelope, read the contents and was followed by an almighty shriek. Permission had been granted! Now the serious planning would begin.

Building Starts

I relinquished the option on the barn and purchased the five acres. The next step was to consider the building materials and the builder that was to construct the stables. I advertised in the local paper for a stonemason. Several people applied and I went to look at the work they had done. I eventually settled for Tommy. We brainstormed the materials he would use and the time of year he would start. It was settled and Tommy would start in the spring of 1985. We decided to use second hand stone and timber. Fortunately a nearby mill was being demolished and that is where we got the stone, a local timber merchant dealt in second hand timber that we used. Building then began in earnest. It was wonderful to see it grow and take shape. It consisted of two large stables, a separate feed room and a kitchen with toilet facilities. A well was constructed at the back of the stables to supply the units. The Ministry of Agriculture was contacted to advise on land management and they took soil samples. I employed someone to clear the stream and the ditches and very soon it was flowing down through the field to join another stream at the bottom and the land began to dry out. I then made a terrible mistake. Once the land was dry I decided to burn the rushes. I started at the top of the field, lit the match and never saw anything travel so fast. The heat from the burning rushes was tremendous. The trouble was that my land was not the only one with rushes and very soon the fire was traveling along the valley. The other farmers came out with sacks and we tried to get the fire under control. Eventually this was achieved after about two hours of hard work! I was none too popular with the locals and it took many baths and several days to get rid of the smell of the smoke.

Clearing the field Clearing the field Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Building the Digglers' home Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle Whisky Mac and Tobias Arrive at Diggle