The Countryside About Us - July 1999

posted 1 Jul 2019, 05:35 by Chris Hoare
The green freshness of the countryside which is re-established every spring time continues to hold well into July. Well timed showers help tremendously. This year we avoided a late frost which, in 1998, did so much damage in early May to the apple and plum blossom. Trees especially are at their most splendid with their display of leaves. This makes their recognition so much easier, by the shape of their leaves. A local walk almost anywhere will ensure you pass by a variety of deciduous trees. Crack willows, oak, ash, hazel, hornbeam, beech, field maple, sycamore and, less frequently, the spindle tree with its fleshy orange fruit, are all to be found. To identify what we are looking at always makes a walk more interesting. In early June several of our villages’ gardens were open for us to have a wander around. Many fine trees, some of great age, could be admired .These included walnut and a variegated maple.

The thatchers who have been busy for some time in Earl Soham, have now moved on, But what a testimony to their supreme skills they have left behind them. The lovely old house near St. Mary’s Church, newly thatched, is well protected now from all that the elements can throw at it. The skills of those craftsmen however have been in that particular family for 400 years I have been told. Modern harvesting methods crush the wheat straw. This coupled with varieties of wheat that produce a very short straw make it impossible for it to be used for thatching. Consequently, some farmers, including one at Badingham, grow the older varieties of wheat, like Huntsman, especially to supply the thatchers with suitable straw. It is harvested with the old fashioned binder. The grain produced is of secondary importance, which is just as well as the yields are rather inferior to those of modern varieties.

The word “harvest” tends to conjure up a vision of wheat or barley being “safety gathered in”. In fact the process of gathering in begins much sooner. Probably the first “harvest” for the livestock farmer is cutting young grass to ensile for winter feed. The large mounds of black or while plastic bags that can be seen in farmyards, filled wit young fermenting grass will provide a succulent winter diet for all ruminants, and even horses, Hay, weather permitting, will be baled by now. A good crop will produce over 1¾tonnes per acre. If you would like to read about or even recall harvests and farming of a bygone era, I recommend you read Tony Harman’s “Seventy Summers”.

Roger Sykes