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A Week on the Estate: Hybrid Forage, Farm 24 & Saturday Club

We moved into late summer this week, with fine cloudy weather broken up by hot, dry weekends. We also saw the return of #Farm24, an online celebration of the hard work of British farmers in feeding the nation and caring for their land and livestock.

#Farm24 at South Ormsby got underway early on 6th August. Paul Barnes’ first job of the day was to check the rain gauge. With a very warm weekend in the offing, we’d had no overnight rain. The Lincoln Red herd were pictured thoroughly enjoying the cool, humid start to the day. The wide pastures on which they graze are especially succulent with a garnish of dew.

Keeping the bull pens spick and span is another key part of our daily routine highlighted under #Farm24. When the bulls are out with the cows in the spring and summer, we tackle this vital but less than glamorous job.

On the land, we drilled alternate winter feed for our Lincoln Reds with the help of Ed Smith of A.W. Smith & Sons. We’re trialling a hybrid, forage rape-kale crop. Hopefully, our fattening cattle will feed on this crop outside during the winter months with some added roughage. Elsewhere, the vining peas grown by Rob Hartley and his team have looked good all season and they certainly taste good. It’s been a varied year for this crop but hopefully it’ll produce a good yield.

Not only are the crops doing well, but we’re seeing positive improvements in the biodiversity of our arable land. We manage the outsides of our fields with grass margins, giving birds and insects plenty of space to live, breed and thrive. We only cut on alternate sides each year, and don’t cut at all during the nesting season. We also aim to trim only 50% of the hedges in any given year. As these flowers show, the recently planted margins are starting to thrive and the bees are really enjoying the late pollen bonanza.

Closer to home, we were delighted to see the return of the Saturday Club. Our enthusiastic young workers got to grips right away with some important estate jobs. They began by clearing rubble and debris from recent building work on the garden’s walls. This will leave the ground fit for seeding by the groundskeeper and prevent damage from flying stone-chips when it’s time to mow. The team also picked cherries for the housekeeper, and stacked logs ready for winter.

The groundwork for the Saturday Club was laid earlier this year. Each week, a limited number of young people will find out exactly what goes into running a rural estate – learning the land, earning a wage and, of course, working hard. Over time, we hope to offer first-aid training and the possibility of ten personalised, miniature wall gardens. Our young people will be paid to enhance the appearance and biodiversity of the estate, and they’ll get to make their mark on this beautiful part of the world.

The Saturday Club also offers enrichment time with volunteer experts on a range of subjects. This week, they enjoyed a photography tutorial with Estate Photographer, Damian Furlong. They learned about leading lines and focal points and took away lots of hints and tips on how to take a good photograph with the tools at hand. They also snapped insects, trees both old and new, and various angles of the Hall. The plan is to see Damian at different times of year, to photograph the same trees and landscapes each time and to thereby chronicle the changing seasons.