As I See it on the Land – October 2022

Whilst the ground was rock hard, we took the opportunity to get access to the pond opposite the Granary on Ash Hill where a large poplar tree had lain across the pond for over 18 months. It had been blown over months ago and had remained alive with its roots firmly anchored in the bank, waiting to be extracted from the water. The pond was nearly dry but with plenty of smelly mud! We gradually cut branches off and the Matbro eventually struggled to pull the trunk and root out of the bank. With the ground tinder dry we were unable to burn the brushwood so we had to carry it back to the farm. The trunk and root were as much as the Matbro could lift.

We also filled some very dangerous holes on the footpath behind the Scout HQ. with soil. They were where the badgers had excavated tunnels deep down and the ground had collapsed. The second hole took a whole tractor bucket load to fill. I thought we had made the path safe. However, as I passed back over it the ground gave way under the tractor and another bucket load of earth was required. It is an interesting issue. We are responsible for maintaining footpaths on our land and keeping them in a safe condition. What happens if somebody falls down a hole deep enough to hide a child? We are not allowed to interfere with badger setts. There are over 20 holes in this field alone. My soil is being moved over the boundary into the neighbours.

After finishing our oat harvest, we watched farmers across the marsh creating clouds of dust as they tried to create a seed bed ready to plant oilseed rape as soon as rain arrived. After a couple of weeks, Mark lost his nerve to wait any longer because there would not be enough time to do all the drilling. He drilled a cover crop into the fields north of the canal where the soil was kinder to the drill.

At last. Small amounts of rain arrived on the 5th, 6th, & 7th September, followed by nearly an inch on each of the following two days. The initial showers dampened the surface of both the stubble fields and the dry grass fields sufficient to allow us to have a large fire without endangering the countryside. We had just three afternoons in which to collect together all the brushwood from the storm blown trees in the spring. It was surprising just how many trees had been destroyed across the camp fields at Hogtub. We piled the branches over the top of one large ash tree stump/root and over the course of 3 days completely burnt it out. Time, and the diameter of an oak trunk, too large for my chain saw, bought the activity to a close.

Once the rain came, Mark drilled all the fields needing a cover crop on the marsh. The linseed, still not harvested, burst into flower when the rain came, so a dose of chemical was applied to kill the new growth. The coursing fraternity had to drive through the crop one night but appeared to have given up either unable to see any hares, or it was too difficult for the greyhounds to run in.

As I write today (Saturday 17th) the combine is harvesting on a bright, dry day and I have received news that the crop is performing above my expectation, somewhere between 15 to 20 cwt an acre. That will be an excellent end to this years protracted harvest.

A mobile seed cleaning machine is due at the grain store this coming week to prepare some of our harvested wheat for planting next year’s crop. This planting should be under way by the end of the month.

One night at the end of August I was just shutting down for the night at 11pm when two well illuminated vehicles were coming up the drive. We watched them pass the farm on camera. They made their way across the Byway to Hamstreet Canal bridge. They travelled slowly taking about 15mins., obviously not worried about being seen, unlike the visitors who came in darkness across the fields and stole a neighbour’s truck and quad bike from the farm yard. In the morning we found large lumps of yellow wealden clay splattered up our drive and on the road to the village. They were off-roaders. People who delight in spoiling the byways and tracks in the wood. They must have trespassed to have found mud in such a dry year. They are banned from the local byways in the woods from October to April. The government is looking into to whether more controls should be put on vehicles to prevent damage to green lanes.

Our yucca has had six splendid blooms this year, with another just about to start shooting upwards. In 50 years we have never seen it so magnificent. It must like the heat? I have had my operation and I am taking an enforced break to recover. I look forward to returning to work to make a start on log cutting.

Peter Sillibourne