The Countryside About Us: May 1995

posted 9 May 2015, 04:54 by James Mansell
On May 1st 1919 my father wrote in his diary “The merry month begins today. Would that I was in England now!” He was impatiently waiting demobilization from the RAF, in Damascus, Syria.  We can all imagine his longing for the lovely English countryside in early May. This year it would not be difficult to imagine May time in April.  Everything is forward in growth. Oil seed rape has been in flower since late March. The blackthorn has flowered magnificently well before its proper time. If the soil had not been so saturated gardeners would probably have been tempted to plant a few rows of early potatoes in January!

The balmy March evenings set off the annual migration of toads.  I confess that on a late night drive from Snape to Earl Soham, at that time, I could not resist driving a zig zag course to avoid crushing hundreds of these creatures that appeared as small triangular blobs in the beam of my car’s headlights. Bufo bufo, for such is their scientific name (and quite appropriate for their suicidal habits) decided to migrate across the roads on their time honoured course, that damp and mild evening. Until I explained to my passengers the reason for my behavior, I fear they were beginning to come to another conclusion!  There was not too much traffic on those roads at that time of the evening so I can only hope a good percentage of these amphibians survived their annual trek.

For the generations that follow us it is very likely they will see our Parishes and countryside rather more “wooded” than now. Certainly the tree planting, largely the result of an enthusiastic arborist, that has taken place along the routes out of our village will greatly improve the scenery on regular journeys to Framlingham and elsewhere. More importantly the “balance” of the countryside will begin to be restored, after the changes “agribusiness” brought about when only “output” ruled. What is not quite so obvious, but of equal eventual impact, is the scheme that encourages and assists landowners to plant quite substantial areas of farmland with woodland trees and shrubs. Two such smallish fields being part of Street Farm have been planted out with a good variety of deciduous trees including oak, chestnut, wild cherry, maple, hornbeam and spindle trees. These fields also have a couple of small ponds in them, and altogether the environment that will evolve will greatly benefit the birds and the bees.

A blacksmith’s forge was ever the place to hear and tell all the latest news and gossip.  It still is.  From somewhere amongst the clouds of acrid smoke produced from the burning on of my pony’s new shoes at Hector’s place, farrier Tom, indifferent to the choking fumes, said ”I heard what I thought was my dog scratching to be let in last night.  I opened the door and nearly fell over in amazement. There was a badger!”   He said he didn’t let it in and it set it off across the garden and away. Tom’s dog was nowhere to be seen.

Roger Sykes