Three tiring weekends making our way down every lane,
cart track, and barrow run leading to the river followed
and our last effort of weekend three, before heading
home, took us down Point Lane, Cosheston.
The lane runs east to west into the evening sun and
as it dropped down to the river, there, glinting
through the trees we saw a slate roof. Derelict.
Shelter for cows. No doors or windows. A gaping hole
in the main roof. access challenging. services none.
Two hours later the deal was done. The landowner would
not sell but we could have a 20 year lease and we would
do basic repairs.
Oh for the youthful energy of those years! Six months
of a "Design and Build" genius friend, and
some enthusiastic less skilled effort from us and whoever
else we could rope in, and we had a house on the edge
of the river in primitive liveable condition and with
a good dose of magic about it. No electricity mind you.
Not even a cordless drill which had yet to be invented.
Oil lamps; wood heating; well water.
Sanitation in the form of the original
family two holer, its whitewashed wall signed daily
by a youthful visitor thirty years before with an addition
low down..."Anne is a nice girl".
And then there were boats: a twenty foot open clinker
whaler with a cantankerous Seagull engine and very long
manly oars; a Swallows and Amazon's Tinker 12 with red
sails; a Polynesian catamaran; and eventually a 30 foot
sloop to commute once a year from Bristol to CP1, the
farm mooring a short dinghy row from the foreshore.
For a year or two a pilot scheme for a sail training
venture was launched. A repro Yorkshire Cobble built
for a TV series was acquired; the yacht was pressed
into service; and all coming and going, shopping ,building
materials and trips to the pub came and went exclusively
by water in a big flat bottom dory leaving the farm
track to the cows.
But that wasn't enough. For more than 25 years, two
or three times a year 25 or 30 performing arts students
would take over the barns and the whole complex; work
up a pub musical performance and then hit the locals
with it. They were almost always memorable special and
life enhancing nights, quite literally in some cases....there
are I suspect, a few children now of student age who
owe their existence to Point Farm.
For 20 years, under the lease, we only had the house,
barn, milking parlour and calf houses with their immediate
curtilege. The focus was on the river. In 1990 the landowner
offered to sell together with about 10 acres of land...effectively
the whole of Cosheston point. Oh yes!
The fields rising from the river bank are very attractive
and are excellent pasture. The 3/4 acre former orchard
and paddock to the south had been unused for decades
and once it was cleared and worked down was perfect
for organic cultivation....south facing, well drained
with good deep "Cosh" (ie early potato) soil,
untouched by chemicals.
A small herd of goats were run for a year or two, involving
a disconcerting Christmas with Sexy Rexy the newly acquired
Billy. He didn't take kindly to being shut up in a shed
when there were wives about so he smashed his way out
repeatedly and, it has to be said, finally contrived
to hang himself on his tether after he had done his
duty. He didn't leave a note or anything but a kid arrived
in due course so I suppose in a goaty way he did.
There followed a brief trial period with six male kids
(otherwise to be bumped off at birth) fattening up for
meat. It was akin to having a troop of delinquents roaming
the land looking for trouble. Vegetable and herb growing
followed and a friend had a go at worm farming.
Meanwhile family commitments meant obtaining planning
permission, first for the conversion of the calf sheds
to an annexe for an elderly mum, and later for a 3 bedroom
dwelling out of the adjoining barn and milking parlour.
The same Design and Build friend drew up the plans and
permission was granted. The annexe appeared and was
lived in. The second conversion was started and the
recycled oak floor to the milking parlour and simple
work to the barn has made an excellent space for students,
canoeing party and other visits from a children's home,
an amateur opera company, and innumerable parties,with
bunk house accommodation.
More recently (and why not years before I cannot say)
an unused room forming part of the main house has been
given new life as a sun room looking out over the river
when the tide is in and a bird sanctuary when it is
not, with all the continuous changes in between.
Working on the roof in the seventies a family group
came walking down to the shore and stopped to watch
us. I got talking to them, and asked for the man's name.
His reply was the name written so many times on the
wall of the
family two holer 30 or more years before. "And
this is your wife Anne" I said. "No, Barbara",
Three and sometimes four generations of the family
had been living there, maybe 12 or 15 people, farming
about 40 acres, rowing across the river to sell eggs
,milk, and cheese. It must have been hard going and
came to an end when the Germans, aiming for the fuel
tanks opposite, missed, and rock fragments smashed through
the house roof. They moved out and the buildings were
left empty for 25 years. We found the remains of their
rowing boat under an overgrown hedge.
It has been a joy. Tough and challenging at times;
any amount of hard work; always presenting something
useful and purposeful to do; but rewarding and satisfying
and from to time offering a connection to what has gone
on here before and to nature, and to life which feels
right. Now it is our turn to give a salute of gratitude
to Point Farm and let it open its arms to others.
Who will come next?