Had the planners, and particularly the gentleman from the council who has an obsessive fondness for historical soil contamination, got a move on with giving us the green light to get started, we would have completed the ground works for our latest ‘project’, several months ago when the ground was relatively dry. Instead during what was probably the wettest week of the year, there were dumper trucks distributing heavy weald clay everywhere it shouldn’t have been.
At the same time the guys who undertook the nine week installation of the new foul water drainage pipes across the farm, back in the summer, returned to infill where the ground has since subsided somewhat dramatically. They too were ferrying similar cargos around the place - what a mess!
Last week we were unable to drill a single acre, which was a concern. The fields were sodden but now following the dry weekend we are at last able to make progress, and hopefully get the crops planted before the rain returns. Too much of a delay at this time of year reduces the prospects for a decent harvest next year.
There is always a silver lining, and the good news is that the new pond at Randolphs Farm is filling up, thanks to the persistent rain. This is much to the delight of some ducks which have been trying it out for size and are happily paddling about. It already looks well established, and will soon be teeming with wildlife. A successful contribution to the ‘Million Pond Project’.
On Monday we should have celebrated the 75th birthday of Lady Sarah Clutton. Instead a vast congregation, including 49 members of the clergy, gathered in the Cathedral of Our Lady and St. Philip Howard, Arundel, for a Mass of Thanksgiving for the life of this remarkable lady.
Sarah throughout her life was very generous in giving her support and help to many charities and good causes. All of which played a huge part in her life. Until she was struck down by illness, she drove the planning of, and then accompanied up to 700 travellers on the annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
She was also the key to creating Sussex’s only Children’s Hospice, Chestnut Tree House which opened in 2003. Sarah made available the land on a 125 year lease, for an annual rent of one dozen mixed lilies and a new £1 coin, to be delivered on her birthday. A typically generous gesture.
She was also a great supporter of St Barnabas House Hospice of which for many years she was president and latterly Honorary President.
As the Principal Celebrant, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster recalled, Sarah was never happier than with her four legged friends, including her dogs, horses, cattle and goats. They and her large and extended family, and many friends, many of whom attended this extraordinary service for this exceptional lady, will miss her terribly.
It has always been a mystery to me as to why anyone wishes to attend Party Political conferences. However, there are those for whom they are the highlight of their year – extraordinary! However, for the second time in my life I attended a ‘fringe’ meeting of the labour Party Conference in Brighton, on Monday night.
The meeting was arranged by the NFU with an interesting panel of speakers, including Nick Smith MP, part of the new shadow DEFRA team. Angela Smith MP who has recently retired from DEFRA. Meurig Raymond, President of the NFU, and Minette Batters, Vice Chairman NFU. Also Ian Wright Director General of the Food and Drink Federation. The panel was chaired excellently by Julia Glotz, Managing Editor of the Grocer Magazine.
We were rather hoping that the newly appointed Secretary of State for DEFRA Kerry Mc Carthy would have been present. The farmers in the audience were keen to enquire if she has changed her tune regarding some of her recorded comments, such as comparing eating meat with the evils of tobacco, both of which she considers should be banned. And her determination to abolish the production and consumption of milk.
It was interesting that both Nick Smith and Angela Smith (they are not related!) vigorously defended the minister. They said she was in fact very supportive of farmers and food production. Time will tell!
Both Labour politicians said they believed that increasing agricultural production can go hand in hand with improving the environment. And Angela Smith said she recognised that British farmers played an important part in the countries’ manufacturing industry, by producing food.
As Meurig Raymond once again noted, ‘agriculture with its supporting industries is the largest employer in the country, and plays a vital role in ensuring the countries’ food security’. He also emphasised how urgent it is to reverse the decline in UK food self-sufficiency which now hovers at around 60 per cent, having been 80 per cent in 1980.
The consensus of opinion from the panel was that DEFRA would not be a casualty of the departmental cuts by George Osborne.
Carola Godman Irvine