MY horsey exploits up in Redesdale are winding down for the summer, with most of the 100 or so rescue horses I was helping to clear up after now enjoying life on the open hills.

It is a real joy to see them galloping round in the open, manes and tails streaming like banners, and hooves throwing up great clods of earth as they gambol about like new-born lambs.

Even the curmudgeonly Mrs Angry has replaced the light of battle in her eye with a more kindly look, and the old dodderers and creaky codgers have a sprightly spring in their step.

I am already missing my regular nibbles, playful kicks and rodeo rides provided by the inmates of the madhouse, and I regard the segs and calluses which have developed on the hands which have lifted nothing heavier than a pen for the past 50 years as a badge of honour.

But my time as a horny- handed son of toil are not over completely, for there are still many jobs around the farm that need doing,

Top of the list is giving t

he unoccupied stables a thorough wash and brush up while they are empty, and it is a delight to shovel out soiled straw without having to keep an eye on the three adolescent foals who make a daily bid for freedom before careering round their box in mock panic, usually knocking me over in the process.

They took great delight in watching me painstakingly fill their water bucket, before knocking it over to saturate their clean new straw

Generally speaking though, I am staying on my feet rather well, with no further panics since I went down flat on my back on a patch of ice in the middle of the stable, and lay twitching for several long moments. Everyone thought I had had a heart attack, but my twitching came from suppressed laughter.

The stable floors are now all spick and span, and I am well on with one of my favourite jobs – creosoting the woodwork. It’s a job I love, but my enthusiastic daubing on wood surfaces results in almost as much creosote attaching itself to my portly person as the woodwork.

I try to be careful, but it’s runny stuff, and I usually find myself squelching back to Max, the Japanese jalopy who is coming to the end of his natural life.

I wear special creosoting clothes, as well as a boiler suit, and I peel all these off before being allowed in the house for a long soak in a bathful of bubbles, fortified Swarfega, white spirit, turps and a few dashes of petrol.

I come back downstairs after an hour or so whiter than white, in crisp, clean clothes – but no cleansing agent on earth can rid me of the stench of the black stuff, which exudes from my pores like Hawaiian lava.

As well as creosoting, my other non-equine duties include removing stones from a recently- ploughed and harrowed field, a task which may sound a tad tedious, but because of the location, the job is full of hidden promise.

For this part of the world once resounded to the tread of tens of thousands of Roman sandals, as well as being at the epicentre of reiver country. Who knows what trinkets were spilled from a careless pocket and trampled into the soil by those hardy little fell ponies?

So every time I dislodge a stone, I harbour a notion the hole may display a flash of gold, or the glitter of a precious stone big enough to put anything unearthed at Vindolanda to shame.

And sure enough, when I eased up a particularly hefty rock earlier this week, there beneath I spotted a piece of what appeared to be Roman pottery. I eased it carefully out of the soil, and brushed away the clinging soil to reveal an inscription carved into the earthenware

It appeared to be some sort of stopper for a jar or bottle, and while it may not have been gold or precious stone, it was my own piece of the glory that was Rome,

Summoning up what I could remember of my Latin O level from half a century ago, I eagerly scraped off some more clinging soil to get a better look at the three letter inscription.

The faded letters said G.P.O – it was part of an insulator from an old telephone line!