February on the farm (2022)

Traditional Hedge Laying

Richard Fonge writes:

Forty days after Christmas is Candlemas day the 2nd of February, and there is a saying in farming, that says a prudent farmer should have ” Half his hay on Candlemas day.”
A reminder that while Spring will soon be with us, it can still be some time before livestock can feed off grass alone.

The effect of winter weather on Autumn sown crops can be seen especially in barley at this time of year. It starts to go yellow which is nothing to worry about if you are the grower, as an application of nitrogen fertiliser as soon as the weather permits, will green the leaves up. Nitrogen is essential for the growth of all crops and has a significant contribution to yield. It has become an expensive input, now 250% more than two years ago, so is used carefully in the crops management.

On the land up Barrow hill and along the Weston Rd, hedges are being laid in the traditional way, before stock fencing is put up. In places along the roadside the hedge has been cut off at ground level . This is for a very good reason, as the hedge was weak and thin. By cutting it back hard, it will now shoot out at base and with the planting of some new plants between the stumps, a much improved boundary hedge will be seen in a few years,

Mechanical hedge trimming finishes on the 28th of February, for the obvious reason of bird nesting and what is noticeable is the high standard to which it is done by local farmers and contractors. Maintaining a hedge takes skill and precision, and the value of hedges and the way they shape our countryside has been emphasised by the destruction by HS2 of great lengths of hedgerow, opening up long vistas and exposing buildings and houses previously hidden from view.

So much to do with the management of the countryside has to be viewed in the long term, an attribute not always apparent in Government policy. We are entering a new phase in agriculture policy after our exit from Europe, with many organisations wanting a say in our land management, and we will see in our own parish the effects of those policy changes in time.

Finally a quote from a past village character. When told of the death of a contemporary he replied.  ” That’s funny, he’s never done that before”.

Richard Fonge




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