Some might say it was a typical over-reaction on my part to erect hidden cameras at the horses’ field.
First the theft from the barn of some broken old horse rugs, then the stolen feed, then a load of fly-tipping in the gateway, making it impossible to get in or out until the council came and cleared it…
Some would have shrugged and said, ‘Well, these things happen.’ I nearly did that, by the way.
Oh yes, I often try to think the best of the world, as an exercise, to balance out my instinctive cynicism. But on this occasion, after three incursions in the dead of night, I thought, ‘Hell, I’m gonna catch me some field intruders!’
After erecting a series of motion sensor cameras linked to my email, and watching what goes on down a track in the countryside when your back is turned, I have to say that I am more convinced than ever that my cynicism is well founded. And I am more than extraordinarily depressed about the state of mankind, thank you very much.
I had assumed there would be the odd wastrel coming and going. I know that a nearby beauty spot has long been designated by the police and council a ‘public sex environment’ — which means they turn a blind eye to people pulling in there to have sex with each other because, well, it’s their human right to exhibit this behaviour as part of their orientation, apparently. Quite as though they were badgers or deer, they get to do what comes naturally with the full support of the state.
In fact, the authorities once laid on tea and coffee as a form of outreach. At night they make sure the barriers are open at the car park the sex people prefer to use, to save them having to cut the padlock off. But it means there is a knock-on effect in the surrounding area, because the sex people sometimes vary their route for a bit of what they fancy somewhere else nearby.
We caught two adventurers pulled into our gateway in the middle of the day recently. I don’t think they are bothered by being caught. Indeed, one gets the impression that is the greater part of the thrill.
So I was not surprised, when I checked the footage being beamed to my email, to see random cars pulling into the gateway. I was somewhat infuriated, however, when a car pulled in at 9.30 p.m. and a woman got out and started throwing what looked like bread or sandwich bits from a plastic bag into my field in the pitch dark, presumably in a cack-handed attempt to feed foxes.
That made me feel like setting up camp outside my gate the following night and lying in wait. ‘Out of my cold dead hands!’ I raged, imagining how I would hang on to the bag of bread I would wrestle from a fox feeder with impassioned fury lest the bread colic my horses.
During the day was not much better: two women riders in reflective body armour pulled their horses into my gateway and gazed down the track as one said to the other in a squeaky, singsong ‘just Philadelphia’ voice: ‘Why can’t we ride down there?’ To which the other said: ‘I think that’s private.’ ‘Oh, that’s a shame. I’d like to ride down those roads.’
Hello, dearie? Can you not see the big five-bar iron gate with the padlock on it? And the sign saying ‘Access for stock owners only’?
What is it with people in Surrey? Or is it people in every part of rural Britain now? They seem to think the Right to Roam Act is the Right to Trespass Absolutely Everywhere Act. Last summer, I caught a sixtysomething middle-class man relieving himself in the barn as his wife stood waiting. I only thought later that I should have asked for their address and told them that when I was next passing by Acacia Avenue, Woking, I would pop into their gazebo for a pee.
Another time, I had to ask a woman to stop using a ball-thrower to throw a ball at the horses so that her little dog could enjoy retrieving it by running under the fence and around their legs.
And then there was the time a cyclist lifted his bike over the gate and attempted to ride it through the middle of the bemused-looking ponies.
When I pointed out he was not on a cycle path, he said: ‘Don’t worry, I’m fine with that.’ As the thoroughbred flattened her ears, I bid him good luck and told him to knock himself out, perhaps quite literally. At which point, for the one and only time I have ever observed such a phenomenon, the cyclist lost his nerve and turned back.