The Countryside About Us - February 1996

posted 31 Jan 2016, 10:16 by James Mansell
It is a risky business passing opinions about the nature of future weather. However, it would not surprise me if we have now had, with December’s sub zero temperatures behind us, our wintertime. Recent years suggest that Old Man Winter  makes a valiant effort to get established early on, and quickly gives up, surrendering to mild wet days of early springtime.

It is also a risky business being a farmer! In earlier times agricultural activities were certainly a subject of a much informed local discussion either at the local market, probably leaning on a gate or in a pub over a pint! “I see old Smithers has cut his wheat, Bill. That never can be fit. He’s always a coming back when others have just arrived!” Now, however, everything is liable to come under public scrutiny, informed or, quite often, otherwise.  A farmer friend who farms on the outskirts of Debenham, a man as aware as anyone  of the need to preserve the  countryside,  as well as earn a living from it, decided to “coppice” a hedge by the roadside. This means cutting back a hedge that has become “top heavy” right down to almost ground level. This will rejuvenate growth and set it up for a fresh lease of life. Yet several well meaning folk delayed him from getting on with his work by stopping to accuse him of destroying yet another hedgerow. Finally he was obliged to display a notice explaining his activity to the public at large! A well informed public conscience is no bad thing but often the “well informed” aspect in country matters is missing.  Incidentally, no such error of concern could possibly be directed at a short “run” of hedgerow, on a back road from Creeting St. Mary into Needham Market.  Someone using skills quite rare in this part of Suffolk nowadays has laid, most skillfully, a short length of hedge. No sheep will ever wriggle its way through that. It will be stockproof and sound for many years to come.

It was good to see whilst out for a saunter along our lanes in my pony cart, during January, quite large flocks of fieldfares.  Such were their numbers, that from a distance I wondered if they were starlings. However their characteristic cry and gregarious moving forward as a flock as they feed, quickly confirmed they were fieldfares.  It would seem they have had a good breeding season in Scandinavia. In fact, seeing quite large gatherings of finches in the bare winter hedgerows suggest they,  too, have done well last year .

Before long gardeners will be buying their seed potatoes. Autumn sown broad beans and maybe onions (if you aspire to “record breakers “) will already occupy some of the vegetable garden alongside winter greens and leeks. It is surprising how much can be produced from a small area. If you want encouragement walk along Bedfield Road and look at some of the front gardens. You will see what I mean.

Roger Sykes