What’s the plan? Who gets to vote? Who’s in charge?

I’m very bothered about all of this.

And yet, all these questions can fade into the background when confronted with the reality of early spring here.

Instead, our focus is on the trees erupting into leaf, on the clouds of Blackthorn blossom, on wild flowers and insects buzzing around them, on the increasingly noisy dawn chorus, and on new lambs bouncing around the fields. Being at arm’s length definitely gives a different perspective to the political shenanigans of Westminster, but we are not unaffected by what happens there.

One example:

Farmers manage the landscape as they farm – growing livestock or arable crops in response to the economic environment and the incentives that politicians design. Here, where the land quality is marginal for farming, most of the land is only suitable for sheep. 

Will that continue? That all depends on the price and profit for sheep farmers. If we leave the EU then tariffs are likely to transform the export market. And the subsidies paid by the CAP will disappear, replaced with… who knows?

Exports become too expensive, so prices have to drop to make any sales overseas. Demand for Welsh Lamb plummets. So with very few sales and all those at uneconomic prices, no-one can make a living as a sheep farmer any more. The result? No more sheep. 

What instead? More trees? Do we ‘re-wild’ the countryside introducing wolves or wild boars, beavers or lynx? Or something else?

Any of these options would have a dramatic impact on what the countryside looks like.

What we like to think of as the unchanging, timeless British countryside would very rapidly prove to be anything but. The Brexit arguments and decisions seem distant, but the fallout will be far-reaching. Even in the countryside, we shouldn’t take what we have for granted.

So I’m going back outside to make the most of the blossom and the new growth, the birds, the bees and the lambs, ‘cos the outlook for all of them may be very different in the not-too distant future…

Forest Coal Pit?

Seems like an odd name for somewhere in a National Park. Especially as there has never been any coal mining in the valley.

The answer is simpler: “Forest Coal” is another name for what we now call charcoal. Before the discovery that coal could be roasted to make coke for iron-making, this area was heavily forested with Alders, which make excellent charcoal. The valley – and our farm – still has lots of charcoal platforms. These are about the size of a full-sized snooker table, and are just flat bits of land created on slopes, where the charcoal could be made, near to where the trees were felled.

We have a couple of them which still have a layer of charcoal beneath the soil, even though the practice died out in the 1700’s. See if you can spot them.

A walk to work – but different

Most mornings when it’s fine, rather than take the quick way from home to work (about 50 feet) we walk around the block.

Here’s what we saw today (a sunny Wednesday in June)

 Starting out up the old valley road track. This became disused when the ‘main’ valley road (ok, it’s a tiny lane) was built in the 1920s.

Just up the lane are some impressively furry trees:


Mowed the ‘amphitheater’ meadow yesterday, getting ready for an event in July. Probably need to get some more tables..

VERY pleased that the new-planted trees from this year are getting started. The birch and rowan are getting away fastest, as we’d expect, but this oak is making the effort 

..as are the one’s we didn’t plant: Amazing what excluding sheep for a couple of years can do. Holly on the left, beech on the right.

We’re also at ‘peak foxglove’. These were just waiting for the bracken to be removed before springing up.

View back along the middle track, over to Sugarloaf

Also mowed a space to put a table back under the ash tree. 

…then off to work. Not a bad way to start the day.

Like work, but different.