POSITIVE AGEING LED ME IN MY 60's TO VOLUNTEER TO WORK ON A FARM
Where are you going? What will you be doing? and who are you going to meet there? These were the questions my daughter was firing at me down the phone as I prepared for my next Motorhome adventure. I had found a site on Facebook that advertised work experiences in exchange for somewhere to park my motorhome and hook up to electric. I had replied to one where they wanted someone to work for three hours a day, five days a week, on a farm in Dorset. But that was pretty much all I knew. I did not really know where it was, or what I would be doing but I did know it made me feel excited and alive at the prospect of pushing myself outside of my usual comfort zone and doing something completely different.
I assured my daughter that I would pin drop my location on WhatsApp as soon as I arrived so that would allay her fears that I was going to end up somewhere in the back of beyond. I had already had all kinds of jokes from my friends in Folkestone, who I stayed with for a couple of days, that I was heading to some dodgy place and they would bump me off and take the motorhome.
So it was then that I set my satnav and headed off in my motorhome towards Sherbourne in Dorset to find my home for the next few weeks. I was blown away by the beauty of the Dorset countryside and I decided to head off to Sherborne itself and check it out. I drove through the narrow roads and was really lucky to find a free parking spot in a side road for a maximum of two hours, enough time for me to see the sights.
Sherboune Abbey is beautiful and the market was in full swing as I wandered along looking at the historic buildings and reading about the history of Dorset and dairy farming. I decided that I need to sample a bit more of the local foods than I have been doing. Apparently there are fabulous local cheeses and ice creams.
Eventually I headed off to the farm. I drove tentatively along the narrow country lanes fearing some tractor would come around the corner and force me to have to reverse back along the narrow lane. Thankfully that did not happen and finally my satnav said I had arrived at my destination. As I looked to my left I could see a very friendly smiley lady waving at me to come up the driveway.
Jan, who is in her late sixties, lives in the big converted barn at the end of the driveway, she could not have been more welcoming. Instantly I knew that we were going to get on. She showed me around as she explained that she just needed help to keep up with her many acres of fields and woodland. She was very laid back and added that I could work the hours to suit me and if I wanted to go off and explore bits of Dorset on certain days she was cool with me coming and going. Just what I had hoped for. She even invited me to have lunch with her as she had made some butternut squash soup.
I got up bright and early the following day and the first job I did on the farm was to shovel horse pooh from around the fields and I have to say I was so happy doing it. The views and the sense of doing something completely different just filled my soul and made me feel quite emotional that I had fallen on my feet coming to somewhere like this. It was what I had been craving after being stuck in a field for five months during the winter months of lockdown. Jan introduced me to various women who put their horses out to pasture in her fields, they were all so welcoming and friendly. We even had a lovely evening chatting around her fire pit.
I agreed that I would stay for over a month and just muck in with whatever jobs needed to be done. It is early days but so far I have cleaned the horse pooh, cleared nettles and thistles from the edge of a field, used a scythe to cut down the dock leaves in a field that will be used for hay, swept out a barn and watered all the plants and plant pots that had been basking in the scorching sunshine. All the time Jan is working hard alongside me taking horses in and out of fields, cleaning up things around the farm and moving things about on her tractor. I have also hosted Jan for lunch at my motorhome. The weather has been glorious so on some evenings I put my director chairs out on the hill top and we have been sitting out chatting and getting to know a bit about each others lives. Jan played in a band for years and performed at many festivals. Something I would have loved to do, only I never had the musical talent to do it.
Because several people have their horses here in the fields and stables I have been learning a lot about horses. Here they do not believe in using bits on the horses because they feel it is better for the horse if they do not have them in their mouths and they can be ridden without them just as easily. They also do not like horses being shoed which I did not know was a thing.
The Equine podiatrist visited and I was fascinated to watch her give the horses a pedicure, cutting their hooves, like we cut our nails, then filling them down, like we file our nails. The horses then use special boots instead of iron shoes nailed to their feet.
I even went out on my bicycle alongside Jan when she took her horse and carriage out along the country lanes. It was so lovely to watch them trot alongside me.
I am so happy that my first foray into volunteering to work in exchange for a place to park my motorhome with electric and water, is in such an amazing place, with someone I know will be a lifelong friend. This is why taking a risk and having an adventure is worth it, you get to really live and experience things in life you would miss out on.