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Farmer John’s November 2011 Blog

Farmer John’s November 2011 Blog

1 Nov 2011

The Government helps farmers to produce cheap food and look after the countryside. It is called the Higher Level Scheme.

The Higher Level Scheme Final agreement has just come through. A ten year undertaking to manage the land at Bradfield and Theale with biodiversity as the main objective. Opposite Sainsburys we are sowing wildflower meadows, with tree planting to eventually screen the M4, and establishing permitted paths. The old pillbox has already been converted into a starter home for wintering bats. It’s an innovative conversion by Bob Beavis, who’s now an expert. Near Theale Station two pieces of ground become wet meadows to tempt overwintering snipe and regularise the current squatting by Canada Geese. There is also some managed scrubland. Here at Bradfield all fields will have 4 metre margins mainly of pollen and nectar mixes for insects to encourage grey partridge. We are planting a couple of larger areas with a birdseed mix and 25 acres will hopefully become a wildflower meadow. There are two blocks to be left bare fallow for lapwings to nest, while snipe have a chance to check us out if Theale is too noisy. There will be more spring cropping and overwintered stubbles, and 25 free school visits as well as some new loos at the farm site. There’s no need for a bat hibernaculum here; we already have 210 pipistrelles lodging for the summer in our roof, and no wartime defences.

Meanwhile, the autumn has been good for planting. The rams are doing what they are kept for and our suckler cows are about to be weaned off their calves which will average 320kg. Lambs continue to journey westward on a regular basis in huge lorries, coming back to the meat counters of Sainsburys. My brain has been utterly confused by this year’s weather but will hopefully pass the next Soil Association inspection, due now.

I am always appreciative of the many and varied ways government generates income. I hope you will all be able to enjoy the wildflowers and biodiversity at Bradfield and Theale. You should do, because you are going to be paying for it! Thank you.

John Bishop