Farmer Focus: The wildlife patrol

The next exciting chapter in the quest for the Euston great newts (my slippery little pals) continues: first some 2,500 meters of specialist plastic newt fence has, at great cost, been erected, secondly the painstaking daily check of the three hundred dug-in buckets has commenced.

With sixteen great crested newts, 32 smooth newts and a mass of toads in the bag and relocated to their salubrious (spellcheck had to do that one!) new quarters, I suppose many would say we have had quite a successful time. I do hope many more will agree that it’s an awful lot of expense and fuss just to dig a hole in the ground to store some water in.

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I wonder what will be the next exciting step to this saga. The answer is, of course, to keep up the good work for the next couple of months and hope our success declines. Oh and don’t forget to take the dog with you to make sure no birds nest on the site – after all, we wouldn’t want that, would we?

That leads me to another of the wildlife protection measures about to be instigated in these parts. UK power networks are planning to have the high-voltage lines between the pylons restrung this summer. Guess what they are having to do to protect the stone curlew, a rare bird that nests in the Brecks? A good job creation scheme if you ever heard of one, with a few bright and cheery soles having to mount two-hourly patrols, during daylight hours, under all of the cables in bright hi-vis jackets. They are going to give up their summer to make sure that the birds don’t nest within three hundred meters of the zone!

Back in the real world of trying to grow a crop and earn some money to pay for all of the above, the sugar beet is all sown in excellent conditions, indeed quite an amount is emerging well, winter cereals and oilseeds are growing away and spring is well under way.

Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship.