May on the farm (2019)

Maize planted in the fields to the south of the Parish boundary

Richard Fonge writes:

As I write these notes the May weather is showing our countryside at its best. The crops up the concrete road are looking superb with the oil seed rape just beginning to lose its flowers, and the seed pods can be seen forming. The winter wheat after the bridge will come into ear at the end of the month. Winter barley off Park Lane is now in ear.

As you take the footpath to Stuchbury from the Helmdon Road you will have seen the two horses in the first field. The grey is a long since retired racehorse with many wins to his name and the bay is a point to pointer having a Summer rest. Nearly all the lambs in the next field are singles. The majority of these breeds of sheep have twin lambs, and these are grazing elsewhere with the singles in this field being aimed at an earlier market. Further on we have a field of winter wheat, but why has an area at the top of the field been mown when it looks such a healthy crop? I suspect it is because an infestation of black grass has been found, a grass that is very invasive and greatly reduces yield and is difficult to control. By mowing you cut the grass before it comes into seed, so reducing the seed bank and thereby controlling the weed. Going through the gate and into Stuchbury parish which is coupled with Helmdon, all the ploughed land has now been planted maize, to be harvested in October for the anaerobic digester seen in the distance with its green dome. (See here for details of the maize harvest in Richard’s notes for September 2018)

This year has seen very few swallows returning to Sulgrave, as is the case elsewhere. I have been told that last year was a bad breeding season by a Naturalist friend of mine, plus it could be couple with some disaster on their migration.

There has been quite a kerfuffle recently with the proposal to limit the control of corvids, pigeons etc. The pigeon as anyone knows who has a vegetable plot is very destructive, with its favourite the cabbage plant, so a field of oil seed rape another member of the brassica family is heaven sent for it. They descend in flocks of hundreds and can soon do real harm to the crop if not controlled. The rook and the crow are very different. The rook nests high up in the trees in a rookery and while at times destructive to young seedlings, it also feeds off slugs and leather jackets. Crows a larger bird with thicker beak and all black as opposed to the grey head of the rook, are cruel scavangers, and need keeping under control. If they see a weak lamb for example they will attack as will the magpie. So a balance must be kept.

Richard Fonge

Pictures of some of the many things described by Richard can be seen on the next page. Click on “Read the rest of this entry”.


See map showing the location of the photographs at the end of this item.


Former racehorse “Dennis” enjoying his retirement.


Point to pointer “Trojan” still has lots of energy, as can be seen in this fine photo by Jo Powell.


Both horses take a well earned rest.


Ewe with single lamb, growing fast.


Area of probable infestation in the field of winter wheat.




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