The Countryside About Us December 1999

posted 4 Dec 2019, 02:03 by Earl Soham Web Admin
Artistry in the essential activities of everyday farming tasks has not been entirely sacrificed on the altar of mechanization, massive machinery and air conditioned tractor cabs. The ploughman in the autumn time illustrates this most of all. It gave me particular pleasure , therefore, to watch a young man and his four furrow plough changing the face of a stubble field, mysteriously named “Christlings”. With his one way plough, not the easiest of implements to “set up” he was producing an evenness of furrow that defied seeing where one pass of the plough ended and the next began. No “trash” remained unburied on the newly turned furrows. Ploughing matches are still held. On one occasion recently there were classes for both tractor and horse drawn ploughs. It came as no surprise that whilst the tractor men were demonstrating their skills, most spectators were watching the horseman at work! Oh the latent power of nostalgia! 

Many folk from the countryside are on the march. There seems a great variety of causes which need defending. I cannot remember a time when the usual placid face of our country parishes had such a scowl upon it. The agenda ranges widely, from defending the right to hunt with hounds, to persuading the public to eat only produce labelled with a Union Jack. I rather fancy the views of the former are too entrenched to change attitudes. The latter cause suggests a better hope of success. 

In 1995 two small grass fields leading off from the Barn Meadow in Earl Soham, were planted out under a tree planting scheme with a good variety of young saplings. Now 4 years later, they are thriving. In particular the spindle trees with their most attractive orangy fruit and wild cherry caught my eye this summer time. What a pleasant walk it makes along the footpath amongst them. 

This century of great change, now draws to a close. Our individual memories of it will vary according to our own experiences, be they long or brief. If the natural world about us can be given credit for just one benefit then it must be the unchanging reassurance of nature herself. Recently, when the full moon illuminated a misty and silent night, I paused to look out of our bedroom window at the scene. From a nearby oak tree a tawny owl hooted into the stillness. From the mystical distance came an answering call. 100 years ago, from a cottage window in our village a similar simple scene was probably enjoyed. It is my fervent hope that someone in our village in December 2099 will still be able to hear a tawny owl on a still moonlit night.

Roger Sykes