The Countryside About Us - August 1996

posted 27 Jul 2016, 08:29 by Earl Soham Web Admin

The new day in late June was but five hours old. The freshness of that particular early morning compelled me to be up and about. I wandered down to the boundary of our garden which edged on to a field of hay that had been winnowed into rows the previous day. The evidence of a sunny day to come was suggested by the misty haze over the hay which shortly would be quickly dispersed by the warmth of the sun. The newly cut sward was straw coloured and almost luminous, awaiting some rain to change the aspect to green. The only sounds were of wood pigeons cooing away close by. Above the layer of mist my eyes focused further on a gently sloping field of barley still to ripen. Above the field was a spinney already catching the rays of that morning’s sunrise. Words are quite inadequate to describe the ethereal moments we all, I hope, experience at some time or other. The scene, however, remains like a photograph in my mind.

August is here and with it the approach of the cereal harvest. On the lighter land the barley has already been combined. I suspect yields have been poor. No rain for weeks has seriously affected this crop, especially the spring sown varieties. The main activity in our parishes will be the combining of wheat. Sown in the autumn the germinating seed has a better chance of sending its roots down to the moisture levels. Even so, the “Sahara” like spring and early summer has affected even this crop. Farmers’ thoughts and conversations as they go about their daily tasks are frequently centered at this time of year on what the likely yields will be. Early thoughts and predictions are rather modest this year. The fears that the oil seed rape yields would be affected because the all important pollination bee, a victim of a parasite, would be in short supply, have, I think, been largely unfounded. I have always liked the advice given about the time to combine oil seed rape. The overall appearance of the field should be the “colour” of a hare’s back, a lovely rustic brown.

In early July I was asked to identify a mass of black and brown marked caterpillars clinging to a web as big as a dinner plate. The web was draped over the branch of a bush not far from Earl Soham green. Not being much of a lepidopterist the spectacle had me and others puzzled. Subsequent research revealed them to be the larva of the brown tailed moth! These will rapidly defoliate the leaves of bushes and even trees. The advice was to destroy them. However, it was decided to adopt the principle “live and let live” so their lives still stretch before them.

For the first time this year, I have provided peanuts for the birds during the summer months. My reward was to watch a greater spotted woodpecker extract nuts from the container to feed its solitary offspring which was clinging, as only woodpeckers do, to the vertical side of a nearby branch.

Roger Sykes