The boxes are nearly packed.  The pictures are off the wall.  It all looks quite empty.  But it isn't of course.  

When I look in the Tea Room I don't see the piles of boxes I see the thousands of people who have enjoyed a Spillers Farm breakfast and I can hear Keith telling hundreds of them how he cures the bacon.  I see people on holiday, laughing in the sun and sharing a cream tea, arguing about whether it's cream or jam first. I see the Tea Room door open on a beautiful Summer's day and people sitting in the garden having a pot of tea and a piece of apple cake.  I see a young Merryck going from table to table making sure everyone  gets a bit of his company.  I see Attla the Hen (versions 1 and 2) extreme free ranging and snatching scone crumbs from under the tables. I see the Christmas lunches we did in the very early days and the panic that hit us as the power shorted as soon as we put the dishwasher on! (Nobody noticed....isn't wine wonderful...?)

When I climb the stairs to the bedrooms I don't see empty rooms I see the thousands of guests that we have had the privilege of hosting over the past 11 years.  I see faces young and old who arrived as srangers and left as friends, some of whom will be friends for life.  I hear the laughter we've shared with most of them and the shocking and tragic stories that we've heard from some that have made us realise how fortunate we are and made us incredibly thankful to be alive. 

As I look out of my bedroom window I not only say goodbye to the most fantastic and beautiful view in the world, I can see how the lake has changed over the years from a basic hole in the ground to a wonderful place of majestic but natural beauty, most of which has just emerged from the ground without us planting hardly a thing.  I think about the wildlife that is now resident: moorhens and coots as well as the visitors; wild ducks, an occasional kingfisher, geese and - of course - the swans.  How will they fare next year I wonder?

It's quiet as I gaze at the garden, but I can hear Kellogg crowing, not only first thing in the morning but pretty continuously all day! I can hear his crow quickly taken up by Cornflake - but at a much higher pitch.  I hear the chirrupping of the chicks that we hatched and see the ones that hatched naturally popping out from under their mother's feathers. I see the ducks waddling down from the lake to see if the hens have left any crumbs from breakfast except for Limpy our oldest duck who broke her leg years ago and now only makes the journey to the lake once a day.  I can hear her now quacking at the departing ducks, telling them not to be long as she'll get lonely.

Gazing out at the lake field I see our 40 or so lambs and sheep that we've had over the years gamboling, running, chomping grass, playing with and following Merryck.  I hear them bleating to be bottle fed and I can almost feel them suckling my fingers.  But most of all I hear myself calling "PF!"  "PF!" for PFS (Pretty Fluffy Sheep) and seeing her break from the flock and come running over for a cuddle.  I can still feel her wool tickling my face as I bury it in her fluffy neck and breathe in the warm, lanolin smell of living, breathing wool. 

Walking into Trotter's Bottom, the pig sty, is the most bittersweet of all of course. But they're all still here.  I can hear piglets grunting, squealing and playing, chasing each other on their tiny little trotters that look so much like a ballerina en pointe.  I see Cassie out in the field playing piggy "tig" with her first of many, many litters. I wander out by the veg garden and Marlene wanders over to see if I've dug up any weeds for her.  She greets me with lots of grunts. She was always the most talkative.  I give her a good scratch with the head of an old yard brush and she shakes her head in gratitude.  Rodders - the largest yet most lovable pig in the world is lying on his side in the sun giving me his trotter as a sign that he'd like a belly rub please. 

So as I take one last long look at Spillers it's not empty at all.  It is full.  It's full of the sights, sounds and smells of the best years of my life. I see it all. I see the animals that we've loved and cared for.  I see the little ones born here and the ones that didn't make it. I see all the people who came through our doors and shared our lives, even if it was just for a very short time.

But most of all I see myself.  I see how much I've changed.  Spillers Farm has turned me from a City Girl into a Country Woman.  I may be leaving Spillers but it will stay in my heart forever.