As I see it on the land – July-August 2023

Just Waiting.

We are waiting for the showery conditions to clear and the sun to return before setting the combine off on our 2023 harvest. Only then will we know how the crops have survived our dry conditions.

Last weekend’s rain, welcome for most, caught out some growers who were combining oilseed rape. The heavy raindrops and strong wind shattered some seed out of the pods which then appear white, having shed their seed onto the ground.

Yesterday, 22nd, we went to Wisley. As we got out of the car it started to rain. We got soaked through to the skin and returned home. The ground at Ruckinge was still dry under the trees!!
It was strange watching a wet Wimbledon whilst the sun shone here all week.

All preharvest field work has been completed. The grain stores cleaned and fumigated. All the trailers and the combine have been serviced and ready to go. One tractor has a serious oil leak underneath the tractor cab, where two pipes have rubbed causing them to burst. Unable to be driven due to the leak, it was loaded onto a borrowed low-loader trailer and taken to the workshop at Ivychurch for a challenging repair job. The cab has got to be lifted off!

I get asked by visitors what do I do with myself. Trying to keep the caravan site tidy as well as improve it with some flowers, together with the holiday let, doing the accounts and letter writing, plus gardening, there is often little time left in a day. When I can entice a helper to come for an afternoon’s work, we will load the Matbro with nearly 1.5 tonnes of road plainings and head off to the canal towpath/byway. We often lay over 4 tonnes a day all by hand. There is no waste or inconvenience to the public.

Over the last five years we have laid over 350 tonnes of hardcore/plainings onto the canal path. We have had some support from the Drainage Board; the Environment Agency; and the Public Rights of Way, who should be responsible for its upkeep. The majority of the material has been paid for by me, along with the paid helper and the machinery costs.

I am going to seek the support of the two Parish Councils. (a) To perhaps help with funding. A lorry load is now £400. (b) To support getting the Byway closed to traffic in the winter months, similar to the byways in the Hamstreet Nature Reserve and the Bilsington side of Ruckinge. Unfortunately, some 4×4’s will drive through when conditions are wet. Some motor bikers respect the byway whilst others insist on speeding and driving in a manner that breaks the surface and brings up the base material. I am 78 and don’t know how much longer I will be able to continue the work.

The holiday let business has been difficult this year with the agents struggling to find customers. They keep reducing the letting price to encourage people to holiday in this country rather than in the flaming sunshine!!

This week I did an emergency stop in the Matbro (you nearly get thrown out the window) to avoid squashing a grass snake as it slithered across the road close to Brian Fox’s Garden. It is only the second one I have seen alive this year. This weekend the telegraph magazine has an article on snakes and the challenge they face to survive. Apart from humans who will kill them because they just don’t like snakes, it would appear that the buzzards (which I have suspected) and rooks are their main predictors. This might explain why the dead damaged one I found in April was just beneath a rookery.

Last evening one baby owl was having flying lessons up and down the rafters in my old sheep shed. The parent flew out and I retreated so as not to frighten it in the hopes it would get back into the owl box. My daughter was delighted at the news since she maintains she has heard a solitary owlet calling for food for several days. I couldn’t hear a thing. We would normally see food being carried in, but not this year. We have not had owls nesting for three years.

I have seen 5 five ducklings on the canal, but the moorhens seem to be without young.

Harvest news next month. With all the turmoil going on in the world every grain will be needed.

Peter Sillibourne