Our winter weather over the last few weeks has been pretty kind to us really.  We have had a few reasonable frosts without anything so sharp that pig drinkers have been frozen.  These will assist with the creation of good seed beds for the spring barley.  Although my grandchildren would not agree, the lack of heavy snowfall will also help us towards a good start for the spring work.  Any day now we will plough the stubble field we have left beside the A1120.  This was left to provide a source of food for seed eating birds through the winter and has also attracted pigeons – much to the delight of one local pigeon shooter.

We have had several questions about the pegs which have appeared on Halls Garden field between the road and the farm buildings.  Much to my surprise no one has asked if this is the proposed site for the new low cost housing estate for the village!  Whether it was the site of low cost housing some 1800 years ago is more accurate.  A survey team from the Suffolk Archaeological unit have been conducting a geo-physical survey on the field.  Ever since the Roman Bath House was discovered and excavated in 1962, on the site now occupied by the bungalows opposite, there has been speculation as to whether there is a villa or farm from the third century AD waiting to be found near-by.  Other than pottery and tile remains, nothing more solid has been found so far.  There are Roman tiles and bricks incorporated in the walls and tower of the church, so it is likely that the site was fairly thoroughly looted in Norman times or before. 
By the time the next notes have to be written, I would hope that we will have started spring land work.  Ammonium sulphate fertiliser will be put on the rape and cereals as soon as temperatures have risen enough to start growth.  Most of the rape has survived pigeon grazing thanks to diligent efforts every morning to laser them off the fields.  Some field edges beside the spinney at Crowfield have been damaged by moorhens, pheasants and rabbits.  The cereals crops look good everywhere and we have about 80 acres of spring barley to plant. 

The saga of the new basic farm payment and cross compliance rules continues.  We have managed to register using the rural payment agency’s telephone hotline so the first hurdle has been crossed.  The approved online method for registering is still not functional.  We can now access our online digital maps to check them for accuracy but the system is painfully slow at the moment.  The old system took Charles 2 or 3 days to do on line.  At the moment we are anticipating 2 or 3 weeks of frustratingly slow and painstaking work.  Why oh why does the government – of whatever colour – feel obliged to change a system which, after several years of fine tuning, was at last working well.  I have enormous sympathy for the education service and the NHS, they also could perform much better if they were only left alone for a while.