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Mr Zummerset Comes Home Part 4

by Robin Wale

What thoughts going through my head as I put the phone down from my father? He had just informed me that I was to give a weeks notice to Stan and May Corp and get ready to come home and work for a neighbouring farmer, Mr Jim Summerhayes who had purchased Manor Farm in Curry Rivel in 1907.

I had been so happy at Evercreech. I made good friends with all the local farmers and enjoyed the company of my landlords, Mr and Mrs Lintern. I had joined the local Mid Somerset Young Farmers Club where I learnt to dig a ditch and lay a hedge properly and also to take a active interest in stock judging. This aside from all the good social activities!

But sadly I finished milking on the Friday afternoon, patted all the cows on their backs as they left the milking parlour, said all my good byes and rode back to home on my little 50cc James Cadet motor bike.

You might think from all this that I did not want to come home. But as a little background to the decision to call me back, when I was 15 and still at Brymore my mother had died of cancer. Sadly my dad had realised that he could no longer look after my 11 year old sister who was born with learning disabilities and he had come to accept that her best interests lay in seeking professional residential care. My brother was already doing his apprenticeship at Silver Street Motors in Taunton, so poor dad was single handedly running a farm and doing all the domestics. He needed me, so home I was, back in my bedroom looking out onto the wonderful moors that we all know and love; Sedgemoor.

Working for Mr Summerhayes was going to be very different. Yes he had milking cows, but in the spring and early summer we would be milking down on the moor in a open back bale. Lovely on a nice day, but not so good if you had heavy rain being driven in with a North East wind.

At weekends I always had something to look forward to. Di, the Summerhayes' older daughter, would come down and help me – though I think milking took a bit longer then!

Another job I had to learn, which I never achieved great success at, was striking mangolds. A lot of the local farmers, use to rally around and help; Jack Eames and Pete Edwards, Gordon and Ken Priddle, my Dad when he had the time. We would all start at the bottom of the field taking a drill line each and knock out all the mangold seedlings between 2 plants, 8 inches apart. All the helpers could get to the top of the field while I was a quarter of the way up. I never did get the knack of doing it.

Harvest time, was an entirely different experience for me; cutting the wheat with the old binders, stitching up the sheaves of corn and then loading them on trailers, bringing them into the yards and making big ricks.

Then in the winter all the hard work – thrashing out the corn which was being bagged into West Of England Hessian sacks, most of them weighing just over 76 kilos. I used to carry them on my back up a flight of wooden stairs to the loft to be stacked and put away until sold, probably to Bradfords in Langport .

Happily life settled into a enjoyable routine. I enjoyed working with the family, got to know the livestock well and was always happy to see the boss come home from Ilminster fatstock show with a rosette. How times have changed with all the local shows and markets gone. But nothing stays the same and my life was about to unexpectedly change yet again.

Read more of Robin's story: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 by clicking the links.

  • And for the less agriculturally aware amongst us, mangelwurzel or mangold wurzel, also called mangold, is a cultivated root vegetable. It is a variety of Beta vulgaris, the same species that also contains the red beet (beetroot) and sugar beet varieties. Their large white, yellow or orange-yellow swollen roots were developed in the 18th century as a fodder crop for feeding livestock.
  • Whatever your journey through life in, or to, Curry Rivel, we are interested and would love to hear your story. Email

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