Summer 2012

Well, how can I possibly not start off this report without a weather comment? After what must be years of reduced rainfall, cracks in the ground and drying ponds, we have had a summer where there has not been a week without some sort of rain, even if just drizzle. The ponds filled up, but did not overflow. However, the ground was so wet next to Fish Pond that we had to push the car out! So how much longer we can take an ordinary car down to Gimswood to do work there, I do not know. Maybe we have to revert to winter mode (4 wheel drive) very soon.

We have hardly visited at all this summer: too busy really. So the thistle spraying was not done by me for once. Hoorah for young unemployed friends who wanted some summer activity! They did it on foot, which is slower than my method on the lawn mower, but they would be more accurate. Hence just the one pass through. There are misses, of course, but nothing too dramatic or to get het up about.

There were two official visitors. The first was from Natural England, which oversees agri-environmental schemes. My Countryside Stewardship Scheme runs out in October 2013. In the past this has supported hedge-laying, pond-digging and the maintenance of the pasture fields. So the next step is to upgrade into the Higher Level Environmental Scheme. I have been resisting this for years, considering that it had too much paperwork and I did not qualify for it. However, Natural England will help and support the setting up and maintenance of the pasture fields to upgrade them into even richer wildflower meadows. By joining the scheme I will add to a group of other local farmers and between us we may cover the greatest acreage in the Scheme in the Midlands! This type of pasture land is still in decline because once it has been ploughed up it is gone forever. Hence the EU throws in money to maintain and improve every piece of land that it can, it seems.

The other visit was from the Rural Payments Agency, which actually pays the money. They wanted to check that I have been doing the work I have claimed for. As you might imagine, I have great pride in welcoming visitors and showing them round. For these two visits the timing was perfect to show off the wildflowers in Little Brookfield, which were especially good this year. And the birds were singing, and the wildflowers I sowed or planted were blooming and the trees looked happy..... By the way, both visits were on the rare sunny days that we had this summer.

The hay was cut very late this year. On the plus side it gave good time for the flower seeds to fall. On the minus side it gave a poor crop for the farmer. And because we have not had the time to do much work, the grass in the rides grew like crazy when the rains came. It grew way beyond the maintenance that we could do with our mower, so a local friendly farmer had to be asked to cut it down. Since then it has grown again, so we must get in there very soon.....