THE Wensleydale family blighted by North Yorkshire's only foot-and-mouth outbreak to date have vowed to go back into farming as soon as their property has the all-clear.

With the remains of the ash from their slaughtered stock still smouldering, the Lamberts, of Raygill House, between Bainbridge and Hawes, refused to be beaten.

Mrs Claire Lambert, aged 42, said she and her 39-year-old husband, William, had worked hard on the farm they took over from his father since they married seven years ago. "We are not going to give it up," she said. "We will probably look at doing some re-seeding work to improve the land. That is an area we can concentrate on while we have no stock.

"Normally we can only do a field a year but we will be able to tackle all the grazing and cropping land and really improve it so that when we do come back into farming we have the best quality grazing."

Confirmation of the disease on Wednesday of last week signalled destruction of the couple's 60-strong dairy herd and 150 ewes.

"The fire has almost gone out but there are heaps of ash smouldering," Mrs Lambert said yesterday. "Every day the digger comes and makes the heap smaller and smaller. When it goes right down, the ash will be buried."

The mammoth task of steam cleaning and disinfecting every inch of the farm is underway, with MAFF officials working daily on all buildings, machinery, equipment - and even the scrap heap.

"They started the preliminary disinfecting on Monday and finished on Wednesday," said Mrs Lambert. "Everything is just covered in disinfectant, then it is steam cleaned, disinfected again and steam cleaned again. This will go on for two or three weeks."

Ministry staff have also emptied the feed hopper, burned the feed and are ready to power clean and disinfect the hopper. The inside of roofs and eaves and all the metal building supports have also been sprayed.

"Every nook and cranny of the farm, including the tool depot and workshop, have been included. Every spanner and tool and bin has to be taken out, washed, disinfected and washed again."

There are other, smaller, changes to the daily routine. "Suddenly, we are having to buy milk; it's quite strange having the milkman leave bottles at the gate."

The Lamberts are still no nearer finding out how the disease came to their farm. "The ministry is still baffled," said Mrs Lambert. "In all other affected areas of the country there are clusters of outbreaks, but on the maps we are just a little dot on our own. We seriously believe it is airborne and came on the wind."

She praised all who had supported the family through the crisis, from neighbours who did shopping to people throughout the UK who had sent messages and cards.

"We have had a tremendous amount of support, with letters from all over the country from people we don't know. They have given us a lot of strength.