May on the Farm (2020)

January 2020


May 2020

During the “lockdown”, the swamp that was Footpath AN6, alongside the double hedge near Stuchbury, has become a desert!

Richard Fonge writes:

With all the concerns of living through a pandemic, what a delight it has been to hear the cuckoo. It’s arrival every year with its distinctive song was once taken for granted, but sadly we haven’t heard him for some four years, but on the 15th and 16th of this month he was in great song. Just like the return of the swallows in April, it is one of those events that always raises the spirits.

The natural world has great powers of recovery and the ability to regenerate. Two examples of this in our parish are the old railway line, where since its closure some fifty plus years ago vegetation has grown up naturally along that old line, a lot of it being the hawthorn or whitethorn now in full blossom and referred to as may blossom. The hawthorn and the blackthorn are members of the rose family. The fruit of the hawthorn are the haws, the Wild Rose the hip and the blackthorn the sloe.

The second example is on the Moreton Road or the gated road as it is more commonly referred to. Here the verges were not cut back to the hedge last winter, and as a consequence the field maple is already thriving and some three feet in height. Hedge maple like the ash grows very quickly and soon re-populates a barren area.

Lanes with grass verges like the Moreton Road were once used to graze cows, when there were smallholding farmers in the villages. It was my privilege to know a very successful farmer who died at the age of 101 in the early 1990s, who had started his farming career just before the First Wold War by milking half a dozen cows. His main source of summer grazing were the lanes around Berkswell village where he lived. Being free, it helped he and his young wife whose task it was to watch over them to get a foothold on the farming ladder. This was not an uncommon practice.

He also recalled to me that his grandmother who had died aged ninety at around the turn of the century, had told him as a young child how she remembered the victory at Waterloo in 1815.

Since the end of the wet weather, we have had a very dry April/May. This has resulted in a spring of slow growth, with a lot of land not being planted and left fallow to be planted this Autumn. Some fields have been sown to linseed as on the path to Stuchbury, others up Barrow Hill to what is called a cover crop. At the top of the Moreton Road can be seen beans on the left, being grown for animal feed, and on the right fallow land which has been sub-soiled. With this very dry spring and so much land not being planted after one of the wettest winters on record the harvest prospects do not look good. As I said in an earlier piece do not be surprised to see some foods cost more. I said earlier that nature soon takes back and thrives again, and after this year I am sure next will repay with a bumper harvest.

Richard Fonge



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