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  • siobhanmdaniels


I drove onto the farm in Dorset and it was so nice to be back. I had spent five weeks volunteering in the spring and loved it so much. I was looking forward to catching up with Jan, the owner.

Being so excited about arriving I did not pay enough attention to the ground below me and when I pulled up on the grass I immediately got stuck. I tried everything to move the motorhome but it would not budge.

I have been so lucky because this is only the second time that I have found myself stuck in the grass since I set off nearly two and a half years ago. This time I knew not to panic because I knew that we would work out a solution. Thankfully that solution was close at hand because Jan has a massive tractor and between the two of us we managed to tow it off the grass verge and move it to a better position.

I set up home and looked forward to working on the farm again. Jan only expected me to do a few hours a day and she is very flexible, so there was no pressure. I love the physical exertion of collecting the horse poo and then pushing the full wheelbarrow up the steep hills. This physical exertion was exacerbated this time because there had been a lot of rain and I was slipping and sliding all over the place in the deep mud. My calf muscles were aching after each day. I told myself it was the same as having a good workout at the gym and I was not having to pay for it. I also did a lot of weeding along the edges of the fields. The other women who keep their horses at Jan's place, Serena and Celia, are very welcoming to me when I stay there. So I loved inviting them to my motorhome one day for lunch to say a big thank you.

It is not all work and no play at Jan's place though. She loves to put on a reggae night in her massive barn for a select group of friends and locals and of course anyone who happens to be camping on her land. I helped her decorate the vast space with candles and sofas and chairs strategically placed to keep a safe distance with COVID still rearing its ugly head.

It was such a fun night and made all the more exciting because there was a full moon and the stars were out in full force. As with most of us in our sixties, Jan's eyesight is not what it was and she was the DJ. Dodgy eyesight did not deter her, she ploughed on. It was funny and very entertaining seeing her manoeuvring her glasses to and from her head and using a little torch to see the names of the tracks and put the stylus in place on the much loved albums, sometimes not getting it quite right but doing it with a wry smile. I love Reggae, I danced the night away, lots of the tunes brought back many happy memories of my teens and 20s.

During my time on the farm I was in the Guardian newspaper, in the column about starting out after sixty. Things just went crazy. The journalist who interviewed me, contacted me after a few days to say that over 900,000 people had read it worldwide, in the first couple of days and it was getting lots of comments. I also started to receive hundreds of emails from women all over the world opening up their hearts to me about how they too are struggling in midlife and how they wanted an adventure in the next phase of their lives. They admired what I was doing and said I was courageous. I was honoured that they trusted me to be so honest about their situations and I felt a responsibility to try and reply to them, which was very time consuming. At the same time Channel5 News sent a lovely reporter along to film me on the farm in my motorhome. He did a marvellous piece that was broadcast on TV.

The local BBC radio stations then all contacted me and I was interviewed on several, including Radio Solent who sent along their breakfast reporter to interview me several times into their programme. It was all very exciting because it made me realise that my message about living life positively as you get older was getting through and there were so many people out there who could really relate to what I was doing. It made all the ups and downs of the past couple of years worth it. I truly want to inspire women to dig deep and find that courage to have their adventures too.

One of my adventures with Jan was to visit Shaftesbury for the day. It is the home of Gold Hill, which was the main setting for the 1973 "Boy on the Bike" television Ad for Hovis. It is so picturesque.

Some of my highlights on the farm were sitting out by the fire with Jan and her friends playing music in her garden, or wrapped up warm perched on a bench on a hill watching the spectacular sunsets in the distance, filling the skies with vibrant colours.

After five lovely weeks working on the farm and hanging out with Jan, who has become a dear friend now, I headed off to Kent, to my daughter Samatha's, to spend Christmas with her and her little dog Frank. It was even more exciting because I knew that it would be a stark contrast to the previous Christmas, when I was in a field on my own in Norfolk during lockdown.

We had the best time ever together just chatting, eating, drinking, going for long walks and relaxing in front of her log burner. She cooked us the most delicious Christmas dinner. It was just so nice to have the quality time with her. On Boxing Day I went off to housesit in a beautiful place in Sussex with one hundred acres of land. I had to feed the ducks and chickens and take their two wonderful dogs for long walks around their land. As well as chasing off some unwanted characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and fell in love with the dogs, who thankfully took to me straight away.

I then did two weeks house sitting, looking after four cats, with such very different personalities, I was forever moving one to let the other ones eat their food, or else the bully cat would have dived straight in and gobbled up their helpings of food, as well as his own. The house was about half an hours walk from my daughter which was an added bonus. This meant that I got to visit her several times. We both liked that I could just pop in for a cuppa or go for a little dog walk with her and Frank. I was also able to catch up with several friends from the area who I had not seen for a long time.

After all that socialising I was ready for some me time again and I found myself the most fabulous little site on the Kent/Sussex border, overlooking some beautiful woodland which I was able to explore. I booked in there for a week. I was also about forty minutes drive from Eastbourne so one day I drove there and I enjoyed a long walk along part of the South Downs, near the lighthouse and Beachy head.

The weather was glorious, although it was cold the sun was shining through at times. When the sun's rays burst through the clouds and caught the sea it produce so many shades of blue in the water. In the distance the sea shimmered a silvery grey and it looked magical.

I love that part of the country and always feel so in awe of nature and the sea and landscape, when I sit on one of the benches looking out to sea. Being by the sea is definitely my happy place. I reflect on my journey so far and pat myself on the back for all I have achieved and all I hope to achieve in the future.


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