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A Week on the Estate: Baling Straw, Clearing Ash & Soaring Buzzards

Fine weather, healthy yields and thriving wildlife gave us much to celebrate this week in our beautiful corner of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

On the land, Steve Ayre has been busy baling the barley straw. It’ll be stacked and used later this year to bed down the Lincoln Red herd in their winter quarters. At Calceby Beck, local forestry contractor Mark Foreman is helping us to make the best of a sad necessity. He’s clearing an area of ash trees stricken by Chalara.

The Woodland Trust estimates that over time, 95% of UK ash trees will die at a cost to the rural economy of £15 billion. We’re working hard to mitigate the loss and bring our woodlands back to their former glory. Some cleared plantations have already been mulched and re-planted with new life. We also try to put the felled timber to good use, mainly as sustainable fuel for biomass heating.

Closer to home, Paul Barnes and Steven from the local woodyard were pictured measuring up for some much-needed fence improvements. At the Hall, the Walled Garden is a gift that keeps giving. This week, our yield included lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and celery. We also saw the beginnings of a small melon in the greenhouse.

We thoroughly enjoyed the pea soup made with fresh ingredients from the Walled Garden. If you’d like to have a go, here’s our favourite recipe. Ingredients: 1kg fresh peas / 3 sticks of early celery / 1 onion / 60g butter / 2tbsp flour / 1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock / mint / salt / pepper / double or single cream. Chop the celery and onion then fry them with butter. When soft, stir in the flour. Next, add the stock, bring to the boil and add peas and mint. Cook under a lid for 15 minutes or until the peas are tender, then remove the mint.  Purée the mixture in a blender, place in a lean pan and re-heat. To finish, add salt, pepper and cream to taste.

Damian Furlong is putting the finishing touches to the South Ormsby Estate walking portfolio. This week, he took the final walk which fortuitously ended at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Skendleby. The 18-mile round-trip took in some lovely countryside, including a thistle-meadow which hosted more peacock butterflies than Damian had ever seen in one place. He also came across a pair of buzzards riding the thermals over woodland at Furze close.

The buzzard (buteo buteo) is an increasingly common sight in our region, distinguished by its size – 50-60cm long – its stocky build and its graceful, shallow V-profile as it glides and soars. Surprisingly, given its size, the buzzard can hover like a kestrel, albeit with slower wingbeats. The buzzard is a great opportunist, happily taking carrion or worms as well as hunting small birds and mammals.

During the first half of the 20th-century, the buzzard was all but wiped out in eastern England. Gamekeepers eventually came to appreciate that the buzzard poses little threat to game species, but a brief post-war resurgence was thwarted by myxomatosis in the 1950s, which removed rabbits from the food chain, and the use of new pesticides in the 1960s.

Much has changed for the better in the countryside since then. As buzzard populations increased generally from the 1990s, new birds in search of territories steadily repopulated the east. We’re fortunate that this beautiful bird – a vital link in the food chain – is thriving again in the Lincolnshire Wolds.