Fields of gold (01/08/14)

Our local farmer is a good sort: maintains some hedgerows, which the birds love; keeps the public footpaths clear and unobstructed. A few years back he told me one way to judge a grain harvest was to look at the way the drill tracks fill over as the summer progresses. In a good year they will all but disappear. There are no doubt other, more technical ways of evaluating grain yields, but it’s something I’ve looked for ever since.

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This year has the look of a good one, assuming there are no catastrophes between now and harvesting. The characteristic lines across fields of wheat, oats and barley have become all but absorbed as the crops thicken out; and there are very few weeds – apparently another good sign. 2014 might well turn out to be a vintage year for breakfast cereals, beer and whisk(e)y.

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It’s not just the cultivated crops that seem to be enjoying a bumper summer either. I can’t remember another year, certainly not a recent one, where footpaths have become so overgrown, almost disappearing in places and becoming impassable to all but the most determined. Nettles, brambles, and a good few non-natives like balsam and knotweed, have combined with a sustained spell of hot weather to create some unusual conditions in familiar places. It will be interesting to see how quickly the established paths reappear when time comes for the temporary jungle to recede.

Wildflower meadows have a long way to go to recover from the years of decimation since the middle of the last century (95% lost according to some estimates), but this year’s combination of heavy spring rainfall and sustained summer sunshine has allowed a few undisturbed places to be recolonized…

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The benefits of the local farmer’s enlightened approach to land management has been evidenced by the increased number of whitethroats taking advantage of the hedgerow habitat…

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And by the ever-growing numbers of the resident yellowhammer population, with their admirable approach to personal hygiene…

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Rob’s fascination with his new camera (it’s a Sony HSC 300 and the pictures are all his!) has yielded some interesting results. Thankfully digital allows for unlimited shooting, at least within the constraints of SD card capacity and battery life. In the days of film he would have been penniless by now.

On one recent evening walk, he managed to capture:

On full (50x) zoom, a distant, silhouetted, buzzard, carrying what looked like a bedraggled grey squirrel…

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And an indication that somewhere, not too far away, it was probably raining…

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Despite what appearances might suggest, the walkers below were sticking strictly to a designated path…

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It’s one of life’s inevitabilities that when we reach a railway line we have to wait a while. The distant glow of a green signal just acted as further confirmation…

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At least, when it arrived, it did have a locomotive on the front…

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The trainspotting interlude meant that we walked quite a bit of the return route in gathering gloom and with the temperature beginning to fall quite appreciably. The sun also dropped quickly and within a very short space of time we saw a flaming sunset replaced by a full, silver moon.

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