The Countryside About Us: November 1995

posted 1 Nov 2015, 10:58 by James Mansell
The Suffolk Punch horse, the Red Poll cattle and the Suffolk sheep, known as the Suffolk “Trinity”, dominated the livestock breeds in our parishes probably right up until the mid thirties. Of course other breeds of cattle were evident.  In Earl Soham the Dairy Shorthorn was especially well established with one or two very well known herds. During the downturn in agricultural fortunes in the 30’s many Scottish farmers emigrated “lock, stock and barrel” south into East Anglia, bringing with them their hardy little Ayrshire cows. This was probably one of the first true introductions of a “new” breed of cattle our unchanging trio had experienced. But what a change of colour, shape and origin the last two or three decades have produced.  The exception is our noble Suffolk Punch which remains, some would say, the supreme heavy horse breed of them all. You will see no finer array of them than at the mid- July Framlingham Livestock Show.  For our cattle and sheep however, it is quite a different story. You could argue that the French have twice successfully invaded our shores. Once in 1066 led by William I and again in the mid 20th century led by the Charolais and Simmental beef breeds. The former are well represented on a farm in Cretingham Parish, with their distinctive massive off-white frames appearing sometimes almost luminous in the half light. As for sheep you do not have to travel to the Outer Hebrides to see St Kilda sheep. In Brandeston you can see a nucleus flock of this interesting breed, with the rams  supporting  four horns apiece! It seems to me both village folk and farm livestock  have each become a homogenous mix with our boundaries ever widening.

What an autumn it is for the fruits of our hedgerows and trees. Beech mast lies thickly on the ground, acorns crunch under the children’s shoes as they walk to school. The hedgerows are hung low with berries of all kinds and crab apples lie in profusion. Field fungi of many varieties are abundant. Would that I was more venturesome with my diet to sample some of these,  but  a previous experience has induced a certain reluctance to do so!  By early November the frosts could well have brought about a colourful prelude to wintertime. One of the mostly delightful trees to see at this time of the year is the North American Red Oak tree which stands proud by the old village pump  on Earl Soham green. The leaves are larger than our native oak and if you stop and look you will see  little bristles projecting from each leaf lobe.

We dog owners tend to think our particular hound  is special for one reason or another,  sometimes not always for the best.  I doubt if many can match a farmer friend of mine from Cretingham and the claim he makes for his black Labrador. It is quite a regular occurrence for him to come  home and  find  a hedgehog, carefully carried from  the surrounding fields,  placed unharmed at his  back door !  If you have ever tried to pick up one, even baby ones, without wearing gloves, your admiration for the retrieving skills  of this particular bitch will be certain.

Roger Sykes