Natural England Conservation Award

I wanted to add a precursor to this weeks farm news. Farmer Adrian, on behalf of the Rush Farm team has received an award in recognition of his excellent achievements in conservation. Farmer Adrian tells more later, but he is being modest. We wanted to share his nomination with you; 

Adrian Parsons, Rush Farm Worcestershire. Nominated by Danny Newman –
Land Management Adviser, West Midlands Landscape Team. Natural England, County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP.

Adrian is a joy to work with. He is always enthusiastic, engaging and interesting to talk to and passionate about the farm and its wildlife. Despite the huge issues he has encountered while trying to set up a Higher Tier agreement, he has persevered time and time again to jump through the required hoops and remain positive about the habitat creation project. He is creating a huge 44ha of species rich grassland and is very keen to make sure it works and good quality grassland is the outcome. Adrian is a great advocate for conservation, sharing the ups and downs of his farming on a blog-style email every week. He is always willing to assist Natural England with projects and is also a keen follower of the ‘Pasture Fed’ movement. In the past, Adrian has completed a successful HLS agreement, and during this time he encouraged several visits of NE / Defra bigwigs and also Councillors. He engages enthusiastically with discussions and tries to advocate changes to systems which will benefit wildlife and his farming colleagues. He also has a frequent turnover of ‘Woofers’ from other countries who come and work on the farm, improve their English, and learn new farming and conservation skills.

Well done to the Rush Farm team! ..and now on with the news from the man himself!

Farm News

Another rain affected week, hence our farm meeting on Friday, though cheerful, was short. For the grandchildren on their half-term holidays more time was spent indoors than was really appreciated. Our suffering has been trivial compared to our neighbours beside the Teme and Severn, and our sympathy is very much with them. Still, Spring, if not yet ‘sprung’ is not so far away. Aside from the bulbs which have now been in flower for a week or so, the blackthorn is starting to bloom, and the catkins hang in abundance.

With only three weeks to go before our Soil Association inspection I am starting to gear up for the process of collecting data and filling in forms. Our inspector has been here before, but I fear she will never have seen us so water effected, or with pastures probably unfit to walk over.

Before that however, we have our herd health test, and six-monthly TB test. Given the uncertainties associated with them we obviously will not be weaning yet, even though it is time. The state of the herd appears good though another seven needed treatment for lice. Dwaine is far less lame as Tim managed to treat the rear hoof that was at the root of the problem. The calves are doing well, and this week saw the birth of yet another bull calf – again unassisted and suckling well. So, as fast as we sell stock, replacements make sure our numbers ever increase.

A task for next week will be to run all the sheep through the race both to check condition and also to single out any ewes that need pampering. We normally feed organic protein nuts sparingly, but this year have decided we have no option but to feed more generously than ever before. The lambs, of course, do not get special feed but are well supplied with hay.

An obvious question at every meeting is have we enough hay and straw with the corollary that if it appears, we may not, the search has to begin for possible suppliers. To date it appears that despite the wet, the absence of cold weather means that the sheep are still finding grass to graze. How we will manage after lambing and if and when the cattle can be let out is another matter.

Children exploring the wood

As visitors this week, we had a small group of primary aged children visit to explore the wood. As their teacher said, ‘it is a very wet wood’. Nonetheless they all had a good time and ate and warmed up in the kitchen before going on their way.


Thinking about this reminds me that Furkan leaves in some eight days’ time. Given his good English I think I can call him ’a very good egg’, who will be much missed.

Furkan is, of course a woofer. The fact is that I use that term rather indistinguishably. Actually, at least a third of our ‘woofers’ each year are undergraduates studying agriculture in all its forms at a top university in Lyon. With these it is a matter of not just helping their English but also discussing our form of farming. Sadly, they all want to come at the same time, and since we have determined three is the most we can manage at any one time, it tends to be a matter of first come, first accepted. I am expected by their college to act as mentor and tutor and provide reports at the end of stay. I am happy to say it is not as onerous as it sounds. Their placement officer is kept up to speed through my weekly notes.

The Bow Brook project

Time, ground conditions and weather allowing, fence removal and the installation of a new gate will take place in the field which lies between us and the Bow brook. This is a field in which the river both takes and gives us land. At our visit to the Wyre Forest this last week, I had a chance to speak to Caroline Corsie, who is a king pin in the Bow Brook project. The brook of which  a part flows through the farm was straightened in the early 19th century, downstream from a now defunct corn mill. It really needs action to stop flood water shooting through this section at high speed.

Natural England and an unexpected award

The visit was to an event organised by Natural England, West Midlands. The aim was to acknowledge and thank those groups and farmers who were actively supporting their endeavours. We went expecting nothing, so it was a complete surprise to find that we were one of those highlighted. Those who know me of old will understand the restraint I showed when given the opportunity to entertain a large captive audience in that I essentially kept mum. 

In more private conversations, what I hope I did get through to those I spoke to, including the area manager for the West Midlands team, was how much we had benefited from the organisation, both in terms of financial and educated advice. We have been so fortunate to have in Danny Newman an enthusiastic and knowledgeable advisor – we are very much in her debt as we are to Rob Havard.

I suppose I need to confess that I also shared my very negative views on the work of the RPA with a fair number of people – none of whom had any different views from my own. A little surprisingly was how many of those I spoke to knew of our situation. I have no hard news on that matter to share with you.

Stamps and good music

You may recall mention of my work ‘downsizing’ my stamp collection. This has entailed far more work than I had imagined! To aid me in the process – though whether aid is the right word I am not sure – have continued with Mahler. His second symphony, I have to admit, even after listening to it on successive afternoons, is a truly massive experience. I suppose it is over ten years since I have had a Mahler week – quite exhausting – mind you it drives family visitors away. As a total contrast, Record Review on Saturday reviewed 19 versions of that perennial favourite piece of mine, Grieg’s Holberg Suite – once heard – never forgotten. It is for me as important as Neilson’s ‘Springtime in Fumen’. Both pieces of course do not plumb the emotional depths of Mahler’s symphonies.

Anne is reading CS Sansom’s Series set in the 16th century with a lawyer called Shardlake as the vehicle to carry the story forward. As I have written before, it is very difficult to find a historian who is also a good writer. This author has to rank as one of the best – what a horrible world it was then!

I think I have started on a book which is beyond my mental capacity. Called ‘Silence A Christian History’, I am floundering. While it might help if I had studied Greek as well as Latin, I have my doubts. It is either totally brilliant or mere speculation, based on texts which are in any case, probably corrupt. But if you are interested in theology, the author Diarmaid MacCulloch is very highly regarded.

Since clouds have featured so massively in our life in recent weeks, I offer the poem below.

Cloud by Samuel Hoffenstein

The cloud assumes fantastic shapes
Of bears and continents and capes:
Of island, mountain, monolith,
And hybrid Fauna out of myth.
I’ve seen the knights of Arthur’s court
Themselves among it’s towers distort;
The silver griffon charge the sun
And once, a gold Napoleon.

Alas, that her ambition leaps
The steed that walks, the man who creeps,
And girt for conquest of the sky,
Conspires with creatures born to die!
The turret thins; the dream is done;
A breeze dissolves Napoleon;
The griffon curls his pale remains
Round Arthur’s court, while Arthur rains.

Myself have charged the hilly morning
A metaphoric unicorn;
Have hung upon my airy heart
A hybrid bard and Bonaparte;
Have stormed in fabled length and flight
The lunar headlands of delight,
And laid fantastic paws along
The foam-edge of the isles of song.

And yet there died upon the sky
A sun-struck vapor that was I,
And left no mark of myth or man
Or bard or quasi-Corsican
Desirous cloud, we are too wan
For day or night to build upon,
And all our dream of happiness
Goes up in stream, comes down in less!

Samuel Hoffenstein was a man of words for all seasons; probably better remembered in America than in this country and no doubt ignored in his country of birth, Russia.

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