The Countryside About Us February 2000

posted 30 Jan 2020, 02:12 by Earl Soham Parish Council
Most sounds heard whilst walking in the countryside are readily identified. The noisy “cawing” of a large flock of rooks which share our parish, a distant tractor working in the fields and the sudden “squawk” of a disturbed cock pheasant. Even the distant “drumming” of a fast approaching Army Air Corp Gazelle helicopter is quickly recognized. Consequently I was somewhat mystified one afternoon recently, to hear a loud “honking” noise coming from I knew not where. The sound grew louder and then, looking skywards, I had my answer. What I at first thought to be a distant formation or “skein” of Canada geese gradually evolved into something quite different. Two “V” formations of about 50 swans, “honking” to assist keeping in touch with each other, flew magnificently almost immediately overhead. They were probably searching for a suitable stretch of water on which to touch down and settle for the night. I confirmed later on they were “Berwick” swans. These are the smallest of the three species, the other two being”whooper” and “mute”. They visit us in the winter time after breeding in the Arctic during the summer (brrr!) months.

The saying “nothing is forever” I really thought would be disproved by the tall Scots pine that leaned at an angel of 70 degrees on the edge of the tennis court, beside Earl Soham Street. Nothing, it would seem, could affect its survival. Even the great storm of ’87 left it still leaning, may be a few degrees more to starboard, but still there. However, it took the gales of Christmas Eve to maintain that “nothing is for ever”. Happily, it had the consideration to fall parallel to the tennis court fencing.

Agriculture has always shaped the face of the countryside about us. That, in its turn, is shaped by Government support and its policies and the matters that influence them. In East Anglia the past several decades have seen financial emphasis behind the efficient production of arable crops, and the removal of anything that competes with that objective. Now, those who influence such matters have decreed that a redirection of incentive is required. Subsidies will now be directed towards encouraging farmers to adopt “stewardship” schemes (already started in the UK), ie leaving field boundaries uncultivated and growing “energy” and “organic” crops. Like a huge oil tanker changing direction it is a slow process, but gradually we will see, I hope, the benefits of this policy making for a countryside where agribusiness and the natural world are more comfortable bedfellows.

As a last look back to 1999, the rainfall totalled in my raingauge was 23 inches (58.5 cm) being much the amount expected in this region. Equally likely, I suppose, August and September were the wettest months of the year!

Roger Sykes