February on the Farm (2021)

Fine views from a village footpath

Richard Fonge writes:

The weather is getting warmer, after a seasonal cold snap. Our forecasters do seem to like to exaggerate their weather news at times, referring to certain weather situations as an “event”. Whilst it is nice to know what weather is coming our way, please don’t over egg it!!

Support for agriculture and conservation will be changing now we are out of Europe. As the Common Agricultural Policy is phased out, new National schemes will come in. The prime scheme is to be called ELMS. Environmental Land Management Scheme. We will await with interest to how these new plans affect the countryside as Farmers and land managers adapt to the new directives. A healthy balance must be kept between the two. 

Footpaths and their accessibility have never been more important, and over the last year, they have become even more so as an escape from lockdown. As well as a form of recreation, they give the walker a chance to observe and take note of the sights and sounds of the countryside and an understanding of how it works.

Farming in whatever form is about producing high quality food for the consumer, and to do this, an appreciation of your particular land type is paramount. Secondly you must work with nature. Try to beat her and your hand will be bitten sooner or later. To produce what is wanted in today’s competitive market is both demanding and rewarding, none better illustrated than, by those who can sell at their local farmers’ market and getting an instant customer response.

All parishes have their history, and Sulgrave more than most. The Castle mound, and its Saxon past, the Manor with its connection to the Washingtons and the first President of America. The lost village of Stuchbury, which has a fascinating past, researched with great interest many years ago by my late Mother. The old prisoner of war camp, on Helmdon Road, with its bases still visible, which housed I believe mostly Italian prisoners, and for many years after was lived in by displaced families.

The fields around us also have history and a story to tell. Every field has a name, the one nearest to the farm is usually called dairy ground, as that is where the cows grazed, but many have names which refer back to an event or an individual of the past. Some examples: I had a field called Mushroom at Kenilworth. It had one year produced mushrooms in abundance. Along the Welsh Lane, near Greatworth you have Newpiece, it was the last field to be cleared of woodland in the 19th century, and the adjoining field is Washbrook. The sheep used to be washed in the stream. Finally further along towards Helmdon you have the more sinister named Gallows Field, the scene of many a gruesome ending.

Richard Fonge



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