Harvest 2004: Swithun’s shadow

FARMERS ACROSS the south have continued a stop-start harvest as grey clouds bulged and billowed on St Swithun‘s day (15 July).

Some have now completed barley harvest while the first of the oilseed rape is now coming in.

Berkshire‘s Chris Smith e-mailed FARMERS WEEKLY Harvest Highlights following a successful barley harvest.

“After the heavy rains of last week, the specific weights dropped slightly, but overall this is still an excellent year for our barley,” he said.

There is now a pause before starting 180ha (445 acres) of oilseed rape, which will be harvested “later than usual”.

But the first 50 tonnes of Winner rape is already coming off the field for Oxon‘s Phil Kinch.

“At 13.8% it‘s still relatively unfit, but there are no red grains and it‘s quite a nice sample.”

In Herefordshire, Philip Gorringe is still waiting for the off since his barley is still not fit.

“I‘m quite happy. This is the first year I‘ve had decent crops to look at,” he commented.

But in Wilts, David Hues reports it has been a “tricky” year and he has struggled with a stop-start harvest.

“What we need are a couple of days with good weather to really get going” he said.

Weather lore, derived from the legend of St Swithun, a monk who lived near Winchester, decrees that if it rains on St Swithun‘s day for a “full forty days it will remain”.

But Met Office statistics show this has never come true, and it was dry for 38 out of the 40 days following thundery storms on 15 July 1976, for example.

Any showers that have fallen are due to die away, according to FWi Weather Services, leaving a brighter Friday (16 July).