The Countryside About Us October 1996

posted 1 Oct 2016, 09:57 by Chris Hoare

During the last week of August it seemed almost as if a curtain was pulled down on Act 1 of the hot and dry dusty days of previous weeks. Act 11 then came on stage with thunder and lightning, squally rain and more equitable temperatures. Farm and garden will benefit greatly from a decent rainfall except where combining wheat has still to be done. Without taking into account last year’s rainfall deficit we were, for this part of Suffolk, some 12” short of what is expected! Preparing the stubble fields for drilling is an expensive business on diesel with the ground so hard. Rain helps to create a good “tilth”. As you may have noticed, especially via your nose, it is also the time for spreading farmyard manure. If the product comes from straw based sources it is not in the least bit offensive to your olfactory nerves. However, the product of broiler sheds, sludge and other insalubrious sources, can encourage a quick closing of car windows as you pass by! Once incorporated in the soil unpleasant aromas vanish and much benefit to the fertility of the soil is the eventual result.

Swallows and house martins were congregating on power lines during the last few days of August as if planning the best route to the south. A small brown green coloured bird you may have noticed in your garden, probably a chiffchaff, will also soon be compelled to begin its journey, along with many other species, to warmer climes for the winter. A pair of herons leisurely flew over the low meadows following the course of the river, which had little sustenance to offer them until recently. It is encouraging to hear various people report sightings of both the greater spotted woodpeckers and the green woodpeckers. Their numbers do seem to be on the increase.

Farm grain stores were emptied well before this year’s harvest began both here and in Europe so the “set aside” acreage has been reduced to 5%. This will allow for bigger acreages of cereals to be sown this autumn to meet both the home demand and especially the requirements of countries overseas. This amendment was made before the 1996 harvest was gathered in. The wheat tonnage in particular throughout the EEC has been very good so this could mean an increase in the “set aside” next year! Wandering along the footpaths it is easy to see the benefits of “set aside” to the flora and fauna. It is rather strange to see a big expanse of thistles, mayweed, ragwort, meadow grass and so forth on set aside areas but it does provide a wonderful source of food for the “birds and the bees”. Goldfinches especially love the seed heads of the thistles. The cover it provides is also a benefit for partridge and hares. I watched a hare accelerate away from me. The power in their long hind legs is truly amazing.

Roger Sykes