We take nothing for granted; our water which is golden, comes from a well, half a mile from the house up a steep hill. In the recent relatively dry weather we have cut a track to it so that when filters block or tadpoles appear in the bath we can reach it without angina on our four-wheel-drive, but not so trusty, quad-bike. We don’t take that for granted either; last winter it also developed a blockage; outside it was seriously sub-zero for months so that ones ungloved fingers froze to the metal gate latches and to the carburetor of a quad-bike. I took the feed to our 30 odd sheep every day on foot, well mainly on foot, quite often on bottom. In fact I soon rediscovered the joy of sliding back to the cottage on the empty feed-bag, pursued by an excited and snowy-nosed dog and watched by puzzled sheep (pictured).
Having beat a track to the well we couldn’t resist a little tinker (like all our neighbors, some of whom are still quite young, we are preoccupied with our flow). Moreover, my husband, having finished knocking down the bracken of the track with his lover, the ancient Hitachi digger, decided he had to dig a hole. The chances of him finding the pipe leading to the house, which was the object of his quest, seemed unlikely, but within half a day and only three holes, he had succeeded and the flow seemed better than we had dared hope for, as it spouted into the air from the accidentally severed pipe. Forgetting the mended quad-bike he ran all the way to the well to turn off the stopcock which broke off in his hand. Already in a state of collapse, he was not thinking straight, he threw open the well, startling the frog and pulled out the top end of the pipe so that the water was saved!
The one thing you have to know about wells is that you don’t need air in the pipes and the one thing that everyone know about Wales is that there is never any shortage of water; it started to rain; the track (45 degrees in parts) became slippery. Temporary repairs were made to the severed pipe, did I mention that it was 5.30 pm on the Saturday before the bank-holiday, or that we had fastidious guests arriving at any moment. However, there is always help at hand and there were friends, one with his pump and the other with his generator and there are always bits of baler twine and jubilee clips and me to push and slither (generators are heavy and pumps are playful) but I was sceptical.
The pump, enlivened by the grumpy generator that had not enjoyed being hauled up such a dangerous track, blew off its jubilee clip and soaked the elderly but enthusiastic work force. Three times the joint exploded but on the last occasion its owner took it in hand, thrusting his thumb over the end of the pipe and nearly disappeared up it. It was sucking; the air had gone; the syphon was re-established. The end was thrust into the well, thumb still attached. As he pulled out his thumb there was a satisfying slurp and the frog that had been watching from a vantage point, half submerged near the edge of the well started to drift precariously towards the sucking pipe, there was shouting and fumbling and splashing as the flailing amphibian was rescued and the filter re-fitted.
All the bits of kit have now been returned to the neighbors, cleaned and all the temporary modifications undone. The pipe has been permanently repaired and hardly leaks at all and a new stopcock has been ordered and the flow? Well, the flow was marvellous for a few days (the pump had blown out all sorts of gubbins) but, you know, the last few days it’s been dwindling a bit.