Upper Six Acres, Brakey Field, Piggotts Row, Granary Hill and Church Field, just a few of the many field names shown on a map drawn in 1841 of the parish of Earl Soham. The map, recently loaned to me, made interesting reading. This map can also be compared with one compiled 143 years later. It covers exactly the same area.
As an estimate about 75% of the individual fields have gone, although the area devoted to farming has reduced very little. The effect, however, upon our flora and fauna, with such a drastic removal of hedgerows and ponds combined with the big changes in agricultural techniques, can easily be imagined. Especially since WWII, most industries, and agriculture is Britain’s largest, have inevitably experienced this revolution. Maximum production from the land and livestock was the criteria of success. Now, however, several far sighted farmers and advisers have taken into account broader issues. Suitable field corners have been planted with native trees like our black poplar and hornbeams. Some new hedgerows have been planted and ponds cleaned and re-established. Spray chemicals are more selective and used sparingly, all of which will combine to help establish the essential balance between commercial interest and our unique inheritance.
My admiration for the nearly tame creamy coloured ferret living in a nearby rabbit warren was short lived. A few less wild rabbits I thought! My few pullets plus one seven year old “biddy hen” proved a bigger attraction to the ferret. Like a fox, early one morning it killed them all for sheer pleasure and excitement. With the expert assistance of a friend, justice was swiftly administered to the ferret. Nature “red in tooth and claw” indeed !