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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher



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24 May 2022

    Bluebells at Rushall Farm I first met...


January 2019

January 2019

10 Jan 2019

When we first came to Rushall Farm in February 1974 it included 275 acres north of the M4 at Mapletons, land known well for its flints and clay caps. We had a rotation including spring barley under sown with grass, which then produced grazing and hay for our flock of sheep.  Following a rather poor take of the grass we decided to roll a 50 acre field with a heavy flat roll.  A few days later it rained very hard and water cascaded off the motorway and field, flooding Bottom House Farm.  The Newbury Weekly caught the scene beautifully with a picture of the dog still in its basket floating in the kitchen.  Order was restored fairly quickly by the Pangbourne Fire Service with some weighty pumps.  Order had to be restored again a couple of years later when a large tree blew down.  24 hours later Dick Knight who lived there had repaired the fence, cleared the wood and planted a new tree.

Not so at Rushall Farm today, where the evidence of our tree safety survey is obvious.  All our footpaths, bridle paths and roads are strewn with felled trees and branches, casualties in a costly major effort to reduce the risk to children and walkers. So, it is time to plant with oak, hawthorn, cherry, birch and beech, maybe some sweet chestnut but definitely no ash.  Ash trees grow well on our soils. It is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering. It is used for making tools and sport handles, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars. An attractive wood, it is also used for furniture and is excellent firewood. But today it is under major threat from ash die back which is caused by a fungus called Chalara. This causes leaf loss, crown dieback and bark lesions in affected trees. Once a tree is infected the disease is usually fatal, either directly or indirectly, by weakening the tree to the point where it succumbs more readily to attacks by other pests or pathogens, especially Armillaria fungi, or honey fungus. This makes felling an infected tree very difficult because brittle top branches can easily fall on the chain saw operator’s head – definitely not a good idea. It is therefore, sadly, time to rewrite our Woodland Management Plan prioritising coping with the disease over our 100 acres of Ancient woodland. BUT even more important is planting those new trees!

John Bishop