Farmer Focus: Digging up the farm‘s buried ’ghost ponds‘

Last time, I wrote that we were poised to start drilling, and on 27 February we did just that.

Cold soil temperatures mean protracted germination, but the lure of near-perfect conditions had my trigger finger itching and I’m relieved to say that everything sown in that first foray is pretty much all up and looking promising.

The second week of March turned wet and so we returned to the winter jobs of machinery repairs and coppicing. Thankfully, last week we managed to get going again, with only four more days left as I write.

See also: How a grower is preparing for ELMs as direct subsidy ends

The bulk of our spring sowing is malting barley and milling oats, but we are growing our first field of chia, which will be a welcome distraction.

Our autumn crops are looking excellent and my first attempt at growing organic oilseed rape is looking encouraging and budding up nicely.

Our winter wheat and spelt will need a hoe as soon as we can, while our winter milling wheat/bean bi-crop has had its first pass with the harrow-comb weeder. 

However, the real excitement has been digging our first two “ghost ponds”. These are farm ponds that were previously known about or ones that can be traced back on old maps. They were filled in years ago as there was no longer a need to provide fish, sustain working horses, swell cart wheels or fill steam engines.

Former ponds are more important than virgin ponds as they often contain seeds and roots from their former selves, making vegetative recolonisation by previous aquatic plants quicker. 

The silty shadows of two of our ghost ponds have now been rediscovered and I am looking forward to them adding to the diversity of the wildlife at Shimpling Park Farm.

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