It has been a bit on the wet side and we have extensive flooding on our land down by the Thames. The B478, which in more normal times carries 1000’s of cars a day across the Thames at Sonning, has been shut for a week. Not that it stops some idiots still driving through the floods, mind you. The tidal wave their vehicles create sends a small Tsunami into adjacent properties who are already suffering from flooding. Part of the problem is that this is one of only 3 bridges that carries Reading traffic across the river. Even in lockdown there still seems to be quite a few cars on the road and just because it says road closed it apparently does not apply to everyone! The general trend around here is to ignore road closed signs and go anyway, which causes all sorts of issues with road works along our narrow lanes. The last time the road flooded was in 2014. It’s not as bad this time, but we still have crops and grassland under water. Wheat can survive about 10 days submerged this time of year before it dies. The beast from the east is set to return this week with temperatures below freezing and the wind chill making it feel like -7C even during the day. This is caused by the jet stream moving further south than normal for this time of year, changing the prevailing wind direction from a mild and wet south westerly off the Atlantic Ocean, to a cold north easterly from Scandinavia and beyond. For us that brings a welcome relief from the rain and it will quickly start to freeze dry the soils allowing us back into the fields.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Christmas Common Cluster Group mentioned in my last post, in conjunction with Natural England, we have had Tony Powell a Freelance Professional bird monitor survey part of our farm. During his 3 hour walk he observed 38 different species including 5 from the amber list and 6 from the red list of endangered birds. That is a great endorsement as to how we farm and a credit also to our gamekeeper and his management of the wildlife. Our hard working woodland department also need a mention here as it is a joint effort. Spotted on the amber list were: Meadow Pipit, Stock Dove, Dunnock, Kestrel and Lesser Black-Backed Gull. From the red list: Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Skylark, and Song Thrush. He saw 24 of my own particular favourite, the skylark, which I am always hearing when out crop walking. In total 248 birds in 3 hours on what was a pretty awful day weather wise. That does not include Pheasants, Partridges, Jackdaws, Rooks and Pigeons. I look forward to the next survey we have, I am sure we can build on what we have achieved so far.