As a child, one of the first holidays I remember was going to stay at a beautiful B&B on a working farm in Cornwall. Having grown up in the city, I’d never seen anything like it. Freedom to roam across fields, picking wild flowers, making corn dollies and charging around in hay barns with friends. But my favourite things on the farm were the animals. Especially, the amazingly obedient dog that helped the farmer round up the sheep and the cat they had to keep down the mouse population. Both inspired me to write many animal stories as a child.
The dog in question was a gentle natured, black and white border collie called Bert who had fur that fell in ringlets all over his body. He preferred to sleep outside for the most of the year except for when it was extremely cold. Then he would come in and lay in front of the Aga until it was time to work again. He was a happy soul and you could tell he loved to work by the way he would charge out as soon as he was called by his master.
The B&B itself was a beautiful old farmhouse which used to be a house and adjoining stable but the stable had been converted into a dining room and lounge for guests. It had all the original beams and beautiful fireplaces. Our breakfast was always served in the ‘snug’ where the table was surrounded by old fashioned pew-like benches. I thought it was magical.
In the lounge, in pride of place on the wall was a beautiful and very fitting painting of a border collie on the fells. As a child I didn’t know much about it, but in later life I learnt that it was by Gerald Coulson. I loved staring at it and imagining being a shepherd on the fells with my faithful dog at my side. When we moved to Cumbria a few years ago, I spotted a similar painting by him in our local charity shop. Of course, I had to buy it. It now hangs in pride of place in my lounge and reminds me of many happy memories and a very special sheepdog.
The best part though, is that I have now almost recreated that long ago childhood wish. I live in a beautiful part of the world, and can often be found roaming the fells with my faithful border collie. I’m not a shepherd and we’re not herding sheep, but I think that’s close enough for me.