One of the last things on our minds when we moved here 10 years ago was sewage, but time and circumstances have dictated that over the years we’ve become quite an authority on septic tanks and drains.

When you live in a town or city, you take this kind of thing for granted, and indeed when we announced our move to the countryside, we were reliably informed by various people that modern septic tanks were barely distinguishable from mains drainage. I beg to differ. When they’re working properly they’re indistinguishable from mains drainage, when they’re not working properly they’re a nightmare.

Needless to say ours hasn’t been working properly.Looking back over the years it’s hard to remember exactly how it started, but suffice to say that in that time we have had raw sewage seeping out of a manhole cover every time we had a bath and let the water out. Dirty washing up water over flowing from the kitchen drain into the garden and a septic tank that filled up about three times as quickly as it should.

Obviously the first time it goes wrong, you reach for the obvious solution, and get the tank emptied. When it happens again but in a slightly different format you begin to wonder, but when all your best attempts to cure the problem fail, you begin to smell a rat, or should I say you begin to smell s – – t.

Our first serious attempt to cure the problem, after emptying the tank had failed, was to purchase some drain rods from our local DIY store. Imagine the joy of an afternoon staring into a manhole full to the brim with sewage whilst attempting to manoeuvre the drain rods in the general direction of the perceived blockage. We tried this procedure many times over the years.

Another attempt was to purchase a sort of curly-whirly extending wire thing that was supposed to drill through the blockage as you turned the handle. Once again we only enjoyed limited success but it was marginally less unpleasant than the rods. On another occasion we persuaded the man who came to empty the tank to use his high pressure hose down the drains, but again success was limited and short lived.

I can’t begin to tell you the stress of living with such a smelly problem. In the end we called in an expert, who basically tried to sell us a new system at a cost (for the cheapest option) of £1,800, plus so much a year thereafter for maintenance. This was more than we could afford at the time, but it did help us to focus our minds on the problem again.

Conventional wisdom on the subject is that solids sink to the bottom, liquids rise to the top and evaporate into the surrounding ground via the ‘soak-away’ system. We concluded after everything we had heard and read on the subject, our liquids weren’t soaking away as they should and this was the root cause of all the various problems we’d encountered over the years.

Extensive searching on the internet revealed various magic solutions guaranteed to cure poorly soak-aways, leaving them clean and efficient. Apparently modern fabrics and detergents tend to bung up soak-aways, and these magic products introduce good bacteria into the system to combat the problem. What could we lose, in for a penny in for a pound, well in for £50 actually for a years supply.

The jury is still out as to whether this is working or not. We’ve been using the magic stuff for almost 12 months now, having had the tank emptied at the beginning to give it the best chance of working. So far so good. Watch this space.