DEATH valley is how Nora Hall described her farm at Bringsty following the slaughter of 466 sheep.

The outbreak of foot and mouth at Grove Farm was confirmed last Thursday and by the weekend all that remained of her flock was a pile of ashes.

Mrs Hall struggled to find the words to express her and her husband Daulton's grief at the devastation that has been wrought all around them.

"Our whole life has been taken away," she said.

"It's absolutely devastating and very upsetting, you can't explain to people. When the ministry told us we had foot and mouth I was stunned. I went cold and dithery and I was on another planet when they told us it was going to happen.

"It's like death valley here now. There's no bleating, yet I woke up in the night and thought I could hear a lamb crying because I've been up most nights lambing so I could still hear them.

"I don't think anybody could understand what it's like unless they've been through it. I just feel as though there's been a death in the family. I didn't watch them burn, I just went over to say goodbye."

The Hall's sense of isolation is intensified by the fact that they are not allowed out and no visitors are allowed in for three weeks.

"My daughter keeps in contact by phone and brings food up to the gate but it's just me and my husband here.

"I keep cleaning - I've probably got the cleanest house in Bringsty - other than that I can't sleep. I get up at 2am and try and doze in the afternoon. I could try and do things but I can't keep my mind on them. If I go for a walk I find a lamb's tail. If I open a cupboard I find a lamb's milking bottle. You can't get away from it."

Mrs Hall said they cannot begin to contemplate the future yet.

"We're not allowed to keep animals on the farm for the next six to 12 months," she said. "It's a world we've been dropped out of and we'll just have to see how things go and hope there's a light at the end of the tunnel."