This year our cattle have got a tasty surprise to keep them well fed throughout the autumn and supplement the grass. We have planted a crop of forage rape, stubble turnips and grass (with left over barley from last year) for them to munch away. Hopefully they like it!
Below is a link to an article that was published in the Essex Gardens Trust Newsletter about the brief work that I have been doing on the history and archaeology of Skreens Park, especially concentrating on the medieval period. This period is characterised by a manor and farmstead set within a very agricultural landscape, despite a deer park being created in the early 17th century.
Last year an idea was sparked at a Catchment Sensitive Farming meeting between myself and Teresa Meadows surrounding the use of ground based geophysics to detect objects in the soil. After the past two years, as many farmers will know, we have experienced increasing uncertainty in seasonal variation and had some prolonged wet weather. This led to a lot of flooding over the whole of the UK and created a large problem for farmers with crops underwater for months in places. This sort of extreme weather encouraged people to think about why water was sitting in their fields and what they could do about it to stop it happening in the future. Other advisers in the agricultural community also highlighted that since government funding for new land drainage in the 1970s, there has been little new land drainage placed in the ground and very little maintenance of drains or field ditches. Thus in recent years the importance of efficient field drainage systems became a topical issue. In collaboration with the Chelmer and Blackwater Catchment Partnership, a project was put together to see if a geophsical technique, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), could be used on clay soils such as those that exist on the farm at Skreens Park to detect land drains.
The project report is available on the link below, please do have a look if you are interested! The technique was successful at finding drains, however its consistency in finding drains even at differing transect angles made it hard to interpret the GPR data. The clay soils did not represent too difficult of a problem, however the large flint nodules and uneven ground surface did make the data rather ‘noisy’ again hindering successful detection of drains. The project hopes to move forward to look at the application of this method to a whole field, enabling a potential mapping technique for identifying drains.
Not only would farmers find this useful over new land, or where paper maps have been lost, but the Catchment Sensitive Farming team could utilise this to help manage diffuse pollution going into water courses from field land drains.