|Tom entertaining the crowd.|
Light evenings and good weather make June the best time of year for farm walks and there is nothing more that farmers enjoy more than having a good look around other farms. Throughout a year we host on average 30/40 visits for many different college students, school pupils, history groups, WI groups, farmers and young farmers clubs and other social groups with on average over 600 per year visiting the farm. This June we have only hosted 4 visits, for Chadacre Old Students Association, Horringer WI, Essex and Suffolk Farm Womens Club and Colchester Rotary Club so we have a bit of time to get out on some other farm walks and see what other farms are doing. It was particularly nice to get away on Wednesday evening to visit Barton Hill Farm in Lilley, just outside Luton. It was quite a way to travel for a farm walk but my brother Tom was on the bill and he gave a very good talk to the assembled visitors on where the crops that the farm produces go to and what they are used for
|Brian Shaw explaining the difference between a scythe and a combine.|
Barton Hill Farm is farmed by TC Shaw and Sons, Brian Shaw and his daughter Whizz. (www.shawfarming.com) The walk was Brian’s annual open evening for the villagers of Lilley and local people to see what goes on on the farm and how they integrate modern agriculture with their wildlife and conservation management.
Brian Shaw talked through all aspects of the history or the farm, their farming, machinery and conservation and Whizz’s new enterprise: Mrs Middleton’s Cold Pressed Rape Seed Oil (http://www.shawfarming.com/index.php/mrs-middletons-oil) and of which we of course, purchased a couple of bottles to try.
The HLS scheme on the farm has been put together very well, taking out of production marginal land as the farm is on chalky land and slopes too steep to farm with modern machinery. The marginal land which has been reverted from arable production to species rich grassland which was full of wildflowers and one grass bank in particular was lined with Common Spotted Orchid, Fragrant Orchid, Pyramid Orchid and Twablade. With all of the wildflowers there is an abundance of insects providing vital chick food at this time of year so the farmland bird, especially Grey Partridges are thriving. The highlight of the evening was seeing their cultivated field margins.
These margins are an HLS option that targets rare arable flora and is simply created by disturbing the soil around the edge of a field in the spring and leaving to let the seed in the soil germinate. On this farm these field margins are completely dominated by Viper’s Bugloss (Echium Vulgare),
a hairy plant found on sandy and chalky soil with blue flowers. The 4 metre strip of Viper’s Bugloss running across the farm is a sight to behold and goes to show what can be achieved with some common sense, modern farming thinking. PB