The Countryside About Us May 1998

posted 4 May 2018, 03:52 by Earl Soham Web Admin

During late March when springtime seemed to have arrived without a winter worthy of the name, you could be forgiven for thinking “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world!” There were some lovely quiet days, ideal for a walk along the footpaths now beginning to be lined by the fresh green leaves of the hedgerows. The first white blossom that caught our eyes was the bullac bushes which were closely followed by the blackthorn that always heralds springtime. By late March, this array of white was already well past its snowy prime. A walk along a woodside displayed some delicate patches of dog violets thriving in the shelter of a low bank. Cowslips, described as rare in some parts, are quite common hereabouts. They were much in evidence at the end of March and even earlier in sheltered places. Many bumblebees were active, encouraged by the warmth of early spring sunshine and increasing supplies of nectar. On the arable fields the rich green of winter wheat was very evident. However, some fields of winter barley which were also drilled in the late autumn were looking rather “pale”. The first application of nitrogen fertilizer will soon put some colour into its “cheeks!” On the way to Stowmarket a large field of oil seed rape could be noted which was well into its flowering by mid March. Most cattle will have spent their winter months in straw yards, but by the time these notes are read, will be enjoying their first taste of freedom and new grass. Like young children who are released from the classroom at playtime, even matronly cows go quite crazy when first liberated from their winter quarters. A comical sight indeed to see!

You could hardly have failed to notice that certain turbulence has disturbed the apparent calmness of the countryside about us. If you missed the media and newspaper headlines you may have noticed posters prominently displayed on farm gates and trees asking us to “Keep Britain Farming”. The countryside, we were told, had problems and was on the march. Indeed, one Sunday two months ago our parish and a good many others, was depleted of many country folk as they converged on London. Their causes were several, but the central theme was telling politicians not to interfere in countryside affairs. “Country matters should be left to country people” they proclaimed. Such demonstrations in rural Britain are quite rare but not unique. In 1816 the peasants around Littleport in Cambridgershire gathered to protest at the loss of common grazing rights. When farm workers saw the arrival of the first agricultural machines in the mid 19th Century, they marched from farm to farm smashing up the machines. The threat to their livelihood seemed as real to them as to those who marched in 1998. In the late 1830’s measures to keep corn prices artificially high by imposing import levies were repealed. Again there was much unrest and speakers toured the country opposing the plan which would reduce farm incomes. At least the seasons can be relied upon to keep a semblance of order during troubled times!

Roger Sykes