Many and complicated are the schemes and instructions that now affect our farmers and their activities. None are spared. As a young farmer said to me the other day “When my old father was farming this place ‘Brussels” meant brussel sprouts!” Now, to the farming community and many others, the name has quite a different connotation. It is often synonymous with complicated rules and regulations, conditions and forms. During WW11 the government of the time established what became known as The War Ag. They could, for example, compel a farmer to plough up grassland to grow wheat instead. However, their authority seemed as nothing compared with “Brussels“as now empowered. However it would be foolish to suggest that all is aggravation from the bureaucrats. One scheme that would be welcomed by the critics of modern farming systems is called “The Countryside Stewardship Scheme”. A farmer elects to sow a 6 meter wide strip of land adjoining the field boundary with a special grass and wild flower mixture. This will be left for 10 years. The adjoining hedgerow will be managed to preserve it. Coppicing will take place. In some cases even ponds will be restored. For removing that part of the field from producing, say, wheat for sale, a modest management fee is paid. Therefore, if from a 30 acre field, 1 acre was given over to this scheme, it would provide a strip of grassland etc. over ½ a mile long. Where some arable fields have “set aside” strips, it is very evident the resultant herbage supports flora and fauna not previously seen. Regularly walking along such a field by Kings Hill, which also has a footpath, I am delighted to see yellow hammers, greenfinches and chaffinches feeding on the seeds in the sward.
March and April in the countryside are months of much regeneration. All energy seems dedicated towards the massive job of growth and reproduction, nothing more so than the arrival of lambs. The flock of Scotch half-bred ewes that are such a welcome feature in Earl Soham parish produced their first lambs in early March. The lambs whose sires are Suffolk pure bred rams, so beloved of flock masters, will thrive nicely in their meadow during the coming weeks. They will continue the old tradition that has been a feature of the East Anglian farming scene for centuries past.
Just over the hill where the ewes and lambs are, another “regeneration” is eagerly awaited. Towards April’s end Salome, a much loved mare, will give birth to a foal. For eleven long months her progress has been carefully monitored. A great sigh of relief from her owner when the newly born creature staggers onto its ungainly legs for the first time is likely to be heard throughout the Parish!