The English landscape

Someone, perhaps Robert Brooke wrote a line to the effect ‘how fortunate to be in England now spring has come’. Whether we are technically still in spring I am not sure, but in this week of sunshine, how can one feel other than grateful for the landscape in which we live. We should be happy that our Neolithic predecessors cleared the land of forests, for the centuries in which all our predecessors and ancestors gave us a landscape which owes as much to human effort as to nature.  And how fortunate that for the majority, access is possible to rural England which still makes up over 90% of our land.

How lucky we are in this country, that, except where the Forestry Commission or tax dodgers have inflicted on us plantations of fast-growing evergreens, our landscape is filled with a splendid mix of native and imported varieties of deciduous trees. Fortunate also that individual trees have the space in which to grow freely and impress with their statue and in the case of the horse chestnut, particularly now, their blossoms.

I appreciate it may be easier to write this from the county of Worcestershire where agri-business has not created vast fields and a much barer landscape, but even in eastern England it is possible to find relics of past farming practice and oases of ‘the natural world.’

One last ‘rant’, if only certain individuals who have great influence via television could remember that our landscape is essentially man made and that our populations of mammals, birds and insects reflects this. Parts of Europe still have wolves, lynx and bears to maintain the natural balance of wildlife. Without natural predators, humans, who created that situation in the first place, have to intervene unless our national stock of non- predators is to become sickly, subject to disease and starvation and, worst of all, unwanted. You cannot manage the land and wildlife for centuries and then just walk away.

More new life on the farm

I might of course have opened in a different vein if the week on the farm had been dreadful but that has not been the case. We have had more lambs, a set of triplets and a set of twins – Fleurine having had a chance to be a midwife. The cattle seem content and we have had more calves. It has been a week in which more tasks than usual have been ticked off the ‘job list’. The calves have had their first clostridial vaccination and our lambs have also. With the emergence of the dreaded bluebottle fly the ewes have had treatment early to minimise the risk of fly strike. Despite this, there had already been one ewe attacked. With the aim of maintaining an orf free flock, the homeopathic orf nosode was again used.

Mob grazing

Pasture growth is such that we have been able to move into our version of mob grazing so there is a flow of animals to new pastures – both cattle and sheep. The re-sown fields are already looking green. We still have eight fields to cultivate and drill in the autumn – the resown fields have to provide grazing before then!

The attack on eating red meat led by eminent scientists suggests belief rather than fact is driving their views. There is much hard evidence that a unit of pastureland sequesters more carbon than the combined total of a unit of arable land combined with a unit of woodland. Strange how we fail to understand that scientists reach conclusions by starting with a hypothesis and then fitting the facts to match the theory. Almost as daft as assuming they can answer the ultimate question by chasing off into space. 

Re-fencing has begun

The hard work done by Jack and Fleurine in removing fence staples and wires has made the work of the contractor who began re-fencing this week much simpler. All this is being done under our Stewardship agreement with Natural England by which we will be financially supported in replacing much of our fencing and carrying out further work to enhance our already splendid hedges.

Birdlife and butterflies

In the course of the week we have been visited by a clutch of moorhen chicks now looking rather ungainly. Sadly, personally, I have neither seen nor heard swallows and bats, though the sound of geese is heard every day, and some days we see our resident buzzards circulating in thermals accompanied by their three young and hear their mewing. The first butterflies have been seen, all Brimstone at this stage.

C.S. Lewis

Rather to my surprise I have found myself reading ‘Mere Christianity’ by C S Lewis. I had read ‘The Screwtape Letters’ and most of his children’s books. Reading this book, one has to remember it was based on radio talks given during the War and reflects in many ways social views hard to stomach today. But overall it was surprisingly easy to see why his talks and writings remain so important to many Christians. While it may be easy to scoff at some of his philosophical thought, I was left impressed by his understanding of the human dilemma and his humility married to a very readable use of language.

Still in the Romantic mode and having heard the cuckoo most evenings when I walk the dogs as the sun is setting, a poem by another 18th century Scottish poet John Logan or possibly Michael Bruce.

To the cuckoo

Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!

Thou messenger of Spring.

Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat

And woods thy welcome sing.

What time the daisy decks the green,

Thy certain voice we hear;

Hast thou a star to guide thy path,

Or mark the rolling year?

Delightful visitant! With thee

I hail the time of flowers,

And hear the sound of music sweet

From w the bowers.

The schoolboy, wand’ring through the wood

To pull the primrose gay,

Starts, the new voice of Spring to hear,

And imitated thy lay.

What time the pea puts on the bloom

Thou fli’st thy vocal vale,

An annual guest in other lands,

Another Spring to hail.

Sweet bird! Thy bower is ever green,

The sky is ever clear;

Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

No Winter in thy year !

O could I fly, I’d fly with thee!

We’d make, with joyful wing,

Our annual visit o’er the globe,

Companions of the Spring.

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