When we arrived to take up residence at our smallholding in Sparty Lea, some thirty years ago now, one of the first set of projects we organised was a re-grading and drainage exercise on the long track leading to the house. That work lasted a couple of years before erosion demanded that we do something again.
It went on like that, to be honest, for the next three decades. Grading, gravel addition, smoothing, pothole filling. It was the classic Sisyphean task, a job that can never be completed. One year we had the culvert at the little ford cleaned out and the elbow ingress from the little burn slightly re-orientated. Another year we improved the downstream side of the ford to prevent subsidence. Lately, over the past couple of years, we’ve put pin kerbs on either side of the track over the burn to keep the newly laid gravel from disappearing.
At the same time, over the past decade, we’ve embarked on a conscious effort to concrete in the worst holes and gulleys of the track, providing a dished runway for water to flow down, rather than allowing it to gouge out the gravel. It’s been the concrete that’s proved to be the most robust and stable, of all our improvements, and this year we’ve only got a few finessing bits to tidy up. Maybe, fingers crossed, but maybe we’re nearing the asymptote of endeavour, where this year’s, and next year’s remediations become vanishingly small. It’s a fond hope, born of many years of sweat and toil.
I walked up and down the track yesterday, as I do, looking around the valley and marvelling at the work that’s gone into our long track, and at how little there’s yet to do this year. That perseverance offers me a feeling of quiet, if humble, joy. It may never quite be finished, like the painting of the Forth Bridge, which takes so long to finish that the job must be started all over again from the beginning. That actually doesn’t really matter.
It’s the fact of the persistence, that we’ve been able to keep it going, that kind of keeps me going too.