Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

1 March 2002

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

Bill and Jonathan Metcalf

rent 89ha (220 acres) of

grassland, plus moorland

grazing, near Barnard

Castle, and own a further

unit 12 miles away, both

are situated in the Less

Favoured Area of Teesdale.

The farms are stocked

with 120 sucklers, including

20 pedigree Blonde

dAquitaines, and 1200

ewes with 200


MOST of us in England could soon be in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, which a speaker at a local meeting described as a bad policy based on bad science. Nothing new for DEFRA.

Apparently, the supposed risks of cancer and blue baby syndrome were the reasons for the level of nitrate in water which was set. However, nitrates are now seen as preventing cancer and blue baby syndrome has been described as extinct in western Europe since 1989.

Record keeping for the new proposals will be another added burden with quantity, type of manure and date of application for each field required, plus the approximate amounts of naturally delivered products direct from the animals.

At least the markets are re-opening, which is welcome news. The first local auction was at Middleton-in-Teesdale on Feb 18, almost a year after the last sale was held there. Moving cattle under the new general licence is another step in the right direction. After having to apply for paper licences for such a long time, our fax machine can have a well earned break.

Signs that spirits are lifting are that the insults are also starting to flow more freely. Wearing a high visibility coat, to give it a polite name, I have been accused of looking like a 20 stone fluorescent yellow garden gnome when riding the quad bike with the hood up. Rather unkind, I thought, because Ive recently lost more than a stone.

We have finished laying a 570m (630 yard) hedge, mostly double fenced. We are trying to progress with as much hedge work as possible during February, while laying/coppicing is still possible. Planting gaps can follow later, together with fencing. The weather, however, has not been kind. Recent wind and rain have made it a most challenging experience.

Several hundred of our sheep are eating up the remnants of fodder beet in the next field, but its gateway resembles a quagmire. We have had to open several new entrances through the fence which has helped, together with a few dry days.

When finished we hope they will clean themselves up once back on grass. &#42

Bill Metcalf is pleased that he can move cattle under a general licence. It will give the fax machine a much-needed break.

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