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Wednesday, 03 June 2015

Fresh milk but weather’s gone off

I FEEL we’ve been deprived this year of our valleys’ colourful autumn display.

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Richard Mawson and David Ancell with their milk vending machine in west Cumbria

It may be that we’ve seen so few sunny days to let us appreciate the autumn tints but I don’t think they have been there in the first place.

The wind and rain took their toll before the colours were at their best.

Someone mentioned to me she’d read that one of the reasons was the lack of sunlight needed to produce the sap required by the leaves to change from green to yellow, red, orange and brown.

But, generally, we haven’t had much of an autumn so far; nor did we enjoy a summer. It’s a certainty we’ll see a winter, if you believe all the predictions.

The latest one I heard was from a farmer who predicts the weather according to the numbers of ticks which find their way on to his sheep. This year’s increase has been a problem and it tells him there’s a hard winter ahead.

A few weeks I caught up with a Lookaround Border TV news programme on itv player after having been told of a report on this programme which I’d missed.

It featured the work of two farming brothers from Seascale in west Cumbria who were introducing what the reporter called an innovative milk vending machine at a bus shelter in the village of Gosforth.

They had been on holiday in Spain and in a supermarket had come across a vending machine which dispensed fresh milk. You took along a container and filled it with enough fresh milk to last all day.

With milk in Britain costing farmers 20p a litre to produce when all they got back on selling it was 16p, it seemed like a great idea to cut out the middle men and sell direct to customers. At the same time the concept was eco-friendly, dispensing with the need for plastic bottles or cartons.

The brothers said that farmers now had to diversify or die out.

There used to be nine dairy farmers in Seascale; now there are three.

They were praised for changing their way of thinking like entrepreneurs. They also took the idea further and now have their own ice-cream parlour as well as a tearoom. They pasteurise their own herd’s milk and turn it into ice-cream.

The news report suggested this was the first milk vending machine in the country but, as John Smith said, “Rob Borthwick hed yin o’ them 50 year ago. It was in Wattie’s Airch.”

This really tested my memory. I can’t remember it being there but I’ve verified it with several older people and, yes, they could remember one.

I was also told by one of them that Rob had added rum to the milk one Common Riding morning, thinking to give it a Common Riding flavour but all it did was turn the milk sour.

Someone else remarked that there had been a cigarette dispensing machine on the wall next to Jimmy Grieve, the baker’s shop at the top of Grieve’s Entry and you can still see where it was. She should know as she lives opposite.

How did the Toon Clock last week manage to sound out the right number of ‘chaps’ each time on the hour while showing the time as an hour earlier, ahead of last weekend’s change to end British summer time? By Sunday, however, they were back in sync.


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