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Good Evans: Greening option does little for the skylarks and hares


This month Roger Evans feels his greening option is a wasted opportunity as regards helping the wildlife, and tells us how his neighbour’s hands might testify to the work done but wouldn’t win any beauty contest.

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Just at the moment I’ve been trying to work out the amount of ‘greening’ I have to do as I expect many of you have. I’ve got some six-metre margins that I will leave in place. They all link up, one to the other, and the same watercourse runs through them all. It’s only a small stream but I’m certainly not against looking after nature if I can, and these margins and their stream will provide an important wildlife corridor.


The sort of people who might turn up in due course to inspect your ‘greening’ have the rules as part of their DNA, but don’t fight it as it will score you points. The rest of the area I have to commit will go in to small areas the landlord fenced off for wild bird cover, and that I now farm. So far the best option for them seems to be to leave them in fallow until the end of June, then put in turnips I can graze off in the autumn.


That might be the solution for me but it seems a bit of a missed opportunity for the wildlife. I’ve got to graze it off by the end of December but the various areas are up at 900-1000 feet. The hardest months up there are after Christmas. If I could leave the turnips until say March, they would provide good cover, shelter and food for birds and mammals alike.


There are skylarks up there and lots of brown hares, and this year we are in to double figures on lapwings. They are all species which would benefit from the presence of a green crop in the ‘hungry’ months of the year. Just a difference in crop dates would make so much difference. It’s a shame because it’s a missed opportunity. Planned by people who think they know so much more about what makes the countryside work. The three species I mention have it hard enough as it is with the predation by buzzards, kites, carrion crows, magpies, badgers and foxes. So what do we have to do? Present them with some bare ground to live on. Marvellous!


So I read DairyCo want us to send pictures of our hands. They want them to use in publicity shots for the public. They want them because they think hands tell a story. Well they certainly do that. Whether it’s the right story remains to be seen.


I know a sheep farmer who lambs a hell of a lot of ewes. He has the biggest and most horrible hands you will ever see – if the RSPCA saw them they would have them cut off. Hands telling a story is hardly a new concept. But if they tell the right story there’s nothing wrong with that.


It reminds me of the story of the bank manager in a rural market town. It’s a long story of the days when bank managers were stalwarts of the local community and were right up there with the doctor and the vicar, the local MP and local landed gentry. They often lived in a fine house attached to the bank. They were people who were universally looked up to, and they made judgements about their clients as to whether they should give them advice and credit.


In those days, a client was not judged by what came up on a screen at the touch of a keyboard, and so his background and his character were that much more important. So this bank manager was about to retire and the mantle of his leadership was to pass to his assistant of many years, which was the natural order of things in those days. And he spent the last six months of his career trying to pass on his experience and expertise to his successor.


But one day the assistant says to his boss “But what about the farmers?” “What about them?” “Well I find them very difficult, I find them very devious, I don’t understand their farming, and I always think they are trying to take advantage of me.” “Look at their hands. If you are in any doubt, or it’s a 50/50 decision, it’s the hands that will decide it. If they have really rough dirty hands, hands that you wouldn’t be seen out with yourself, it means that they are very hard working, and if they work hard, then they deserve the benefit of any doubt you may have.”


At about the same time, a farmer client of his was about to retire and move in to a nice bungalow. He was passing the farm on to his young son and he was telling his son how to deal with the bank. He was in his 80s and his son was in his 60s and was yet to sign a cheque in his life as that was also how it was in those days.


“It’s all to do with your hands,” he tells his son, “they always look at your hands to see if you are hard working. What you do every night a week before you go to see the bank manager is rough the skin up with some sandpaper. Let you nails grow a bit longer so that they will hold plenty of grime, and then hold both hands in a bucket of waste sump oil for at least an hour. After a week of that they will be in a terrible state and they will be in awe of how hard you work and back you 100%.”


I don’t know if my hands are what DairyCo are looking for, but lots of people say I have lovely feet!

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