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#2. Neighbour Wars!?

So in early Sept 2010, 6 months after agreeing the purchase we moved into our Farm with our 2 year old twins, Smudge and Shadow our German Short Haired Pointers. Our friend Owain Turner helped us move from where we were renting near Abergavenny ferrying our stuff a few times in their horse trailer. By the time we were finished we were absolutely knackered. It was dark and we managed to unpack a few things for the kids to gets settled. We were starving and had a very basic meal and went straight to bed.

We woke early the next morning, re energised and keen to see the farm we had purchased 6 months ago. We took our coffee outside while the kids still slept. It was a misty morning and as the sun burnt off the mist we both looked at each other, eyes shining, big wide smiles on our faces. We had finally arrived at our forever place.

I rustled up some breakfast in the farm kitchen, which considering the size of the farm house was small and galleried. Note to myself, to change this when we could spare some money. And we all ate a hearty breakfast knowing what work lay ahead of us today to make the house at least liveable.

Many kind neighbours came to visit us and welcome us to the area so when an old lady and her son rocked up we thought, how lovely. Little did we know this was the start to a lot of misery for us that would last for as long as we both lived here.

I cannot still put my finger on what caused her to intensely dislike us so much. Their family owned our farm back in the day and the first chapter to the saga was her telling us she owned stuff in our barn (bearing in mind they had sold it in the 60s), then she said there was an outstanding court case regarding water payment with the previous owner (which upon further investigation there wasn’t) Turns out she wanted to increase our water bill from the shared borehole from £120 to nearly £1000 a year.!! Not sure how any price increase can be this high. We agreed to pay double what the previous owners paid, thinking we were being fair, but she saw us coming from London and decided to give us city rates! When we refused to pay she had our pipework altered whilst we were away and put a stopcock on our land and closed off our water!

For 3 months we struggled with no water. For the money that we had to pay solicitors to sort it (bearing in mind we already had stretched ourselves to buy the farm) we decided to put in our own borehole so no-one could hold us to ransom. We had our kids and animals to think about as well as our future guests. We involved the local police feeling this was criminal however although they were sympathetic they advised us that we would have to get lawyers to sort it out.

The next chapter was waking up at the crack of dawn for a few months to the sound of a quad bike going through our yard. And our guests in The Old Man (now known as Drovers Cottage) said the same even though there was no reason at all for her to be at the cottage. The gates at the cottage were also constantly mysteriously left open so all the sheep off the common went into our fields to graze. It turns out the next thing she wanted was to apply for a right of way through our yard. Turns out in the 60s Colonel Barnaby who was friends with the said neighbour allowed her to go through however, Barneby actually locked the gate on xmas day as he did not want it to become a public right of way. Being a land agent he was very knowledgeable about these facts. All the local farmers know this. Poor Colonel Barneby if only he had known the future, would he have been so kind. Also a lesson to all landowners do not allow people to go through as this could happen sometime in the future when you are not around to support what you did. We hope the truth will prevail but ofcourse it is up to us to prove and we did not live here then. Research and investigation is under way but once again the cost is on us to prove otherwise!!

By now we were getting pretty irate at this horrible neighbour. They just seemed to want to needle us every chance they got.  I am much more diplomatic than Paul so there were times when he completely lost it especially when she called me a Paki and told me to go back to Africa where I’m from!! We were both shocked as we naively did not even consider the countryside not being accepting of different races!

As you can imagine this slightly tainted our whole dream move to the country and her interfering ways  impacted far and wide, on our planning, on animal welfare being called out several times after complaints from mysterious people to say we were ill treating our animals (when ours are some of the most pampered animals you will find) the list goes on and on. We were surprised that people so easily believed what she said about us instead of making up their own mind after getting to know us.

After much misery we took a decision for our own sanity to ignore her and crack on with all that we hoped our new life would bring. I’d be lying if I did not say I cried over it numerous times and wondered if we were doing the right thing bringing up our mixed race kids here and I am sure this feud and her influence in the local community, really influenced all the planning issues we had etc But through hard work, peserverance, our nose to the ground, a lot of tears (as everyone wants to move to a community and be loved!! or at least liked) we have moved on. And we hope as we get to know more people they will know our kindness and gentleness in all we do.

Putting up CCTV really stopped the continuous daily harassment from our neighbour and we know they call or write to the local parish council often to say something bad about us. But we hope the Parish too who now know our character and the type of people we are will now have a much more balanced view. We can only hope 9 years later that the tides have changed. Not a great start to the dream!! and our life in the countryside.

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