WHEN customers call Tarka Chimney Sweeps and ask for the sweep they re sometimes a little taken aback when the pleasant female voice at the other end tells them they have the right person. Christine Adey from Umberleigh is one of the few lady chimney swee

WHEN customers call Tarka Chimney Sweeps and ask for the sweep they're sometimes a little taken aback when the pleasant female voice at the other end tells them they have the right person.

Christine Adey from Umberleigh is one of the few lady chimney sweeps in the UK, but after more than two years in business her customers are more than happy to entrust her with their flues and recommend her work to anyone.

Chris and her husband Frank run Tarka Chimney Sweeps from their home at Chapelton, but while Frank helps with the equipment, it is his wife who works on the chimneys!

It is a far cry from the couple's previous occupation as owners of a guest house and The Gables Tea Rooms at Umberleigh.

"Then the Croyde sweep, Keith Howe, who we have been friends with for a long time, suggested I go along with him and give sweeping a go," said Chris.

"I was a bit daunted at first, but I actually found it very satisfying, " she said.

"I worked with Keith for several months before going it alone and who better to train with than someone with that much experience? "There is a lot more to the job than I ever imagined possible, all the types of fires you come across and every one is different in its own right."

The modern chimney sweep is just as likely to be cleaning flues for kitchen ranges or wood burning stoves than giant antique fire places - although those still occur too.

"The very worst I had was an eight foot inglenook full of birds' nests right across and about four or five foot deep. The whole thing was blocked and I had to clear the sticks through a tiny hole," said Chris.

"We check fires for safety and I can advise straight away on whether a chimney is blocked or can be used. I love doing it and it is a very satisfying job, leaving fires thoroughly clean and safe to use."

Her job as a sweep might not fit with convention, but most people she meets admire her for it.