As I See it on the Land – July 2022

We became a victim of criminal damage.
Whilst driving along the canal towpath at Ruckinge on Monday 30th May, we noticed that there were some wheel marks in our first wheat field. I wondered what Mark had been doing with a tractor to make such a mess. I knew he was about to mow the headlands of all of the fields to reduce weed growth. Tuesday morning, I spoke to him on the phone and questioned him on what he had been doing to create such damage. He was about to ask me the same question.
This prompted him to go and investigate. The police had reported a mini digger stolen from Bilsington Priory over the night of Sunday 29th/ Monday30th. This theft created the damage. It had been taken along the towpath and dragged/taken through the wheat crop, around the bend in the boundary, then hidden behind a hedge out of sight of the canal and abandoned with its bucket dropped into the middle of a hedge. We assume it was left there to see if there was a tracker on it, whilst they waited until things quietened down, before collecting it to sell on. The blackthorn hedge was growing through a wire fence with barbed wire on top. The digger was well lodged. How the thieves were going to retrieve it I do not know.
Its discovery was reported to the police. Mark offered to retrieve it with his lifting machine which he fetched from Ivychurch. His vehicle has a longer reach and can lift more than my Matbro. Using strong straps he lifted the digger up out of the hedge, but it ruined the fence, which we had to cut. He carried the digger over the wheat crop along a tram line to avoid more loss of crop. The owners came with a trailer and in the presence of the police the digger was loaded onto it, although the trailer was not really wide enough. The wheels of the digger sat on the trailer sides. It was strapped down securely. The owners went off, very grateful to have had their £3.5K digger returned safely with only a little damage.
We went home for a late dinner. Whilst we were away the perpetrators returned, coming in from Hamstreet Canal Bridge. They were seen opening the gates by walkers who thought they looked like men up to mischief. The walkers gave a good description of the men, their clothing and the vehicle, along with the exact time they were seen. The vehicle travelled almost to Ruckinge before turning in the neighbour’s crop. They then drove up our field to check whether the digger was still there. They then drove out to Hamstreet driving through our linseed when nobody could see them. They drove through our wheat crop a few yards parallel to the towpath, knocking all the ears of wheat out. It was probably meant to be a warning to us not to interfere in their activities since they could do untold damage. The police said we know who that will be. No action. The vehicle would have been covered in ears of wheat and easily identified.
The owners got their digger back. We lost £400 worth of crops; plus the time we gave to recovery. The police said it would have costs hundreds to have had a recovery firm do what Mark did. We consulted our insurers, the NFU. Not covered for malicious damage, but tried under the heading ‘damaged produce’. The assessor came and said nothing could be established until harvest time and there was an excess of £250 on the policy. It looks as if we will stand the full cost of the theft.
I travelled from Tenterden one afternoon and on reaching Woodchurch it started raining. By the time I came up Bluebell Hill the water was pouring down the road. Hamstreet was awash with water and it was pouring off the new building site at the railway bridge, full of soil. Approaching Ruckinge the road was only just damp and at the farm, dry. Recently, Hamstreet has been wet on several occasions but we have been dry on the marsh. The rain seems to sweep up through Bournewood and drops over the woods. I was astonished to see that the builders had removed the roadside hedge in May whilst birds were nesting. Farmers would have been penalised if they had dared to do so.
The linseed is still growing slowly. The early established plants are just starting to flower, and a daily blue petal is giving most of the fields a beautiful blue hue. I think Mark has some more fungicide to apply to the wheat crops before they are left to fill and ripen, ready for harvest.
This last week the Prime Minister has told farmers they must produce more. I do not know what he thinks we are all doing. At last, belatedly, the government have realised we produce food to fill the supermarket shelves which may not be quite so full of every product required in the future. They do not allow growers to employ foreign pickers, resulting in some fruit and veg being wasted.
The government is pulling back on rewilding the countryside and drastically reducing the £80 million allotted for the process.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

What a relief, and pleasure it was to see someone fresh and motivated to undertake a village event and carry it through to such a successful conclusion. Nearly two hundred people enjoyed the event prepared and run by Maria Callow and her band of helpers. Thank you all for your splendid work and to the Wildings for allowing the use of their field which made it all possible.