Today was a red letter day. The farmer who cut the meadows two years ago was coming to look at them to see whether he wanted them for hay to feed his cattle. He has a cattle farm on the marshes between Deal and Sandwich.
His biggest concern was their ragwort status and consequently all of today for us was spent making sure that all ragwort had disappeared out of the meadows. Animals know to avoid ragwort if they see it growing in a field but, in hay, they don’t recognise it and eat it and it apparently builds up in their liver and can kill them. In fact he has apparently lost cattle to ragwort and so its a really big deal.
By the time he arrived, we were fairly sure that there was minimal ragwort left. But about seven man hours had been spent ensuring that this was the case! He seemed really pleased with both the quality and the size of what was here.
And what an absolutely lovely man he is. We also met his wife who, as a child lived on her parents farm near Theale by the River Thames at Reading. Then, during the war, they sold the farm so that it could be mined for gravel needed for the war effort. They moved the entire farm from Berkshire down to a farm that they were going to rent near here by train – they loaded the entire farm on a special train, all the machinery, all the cattle, all the sheep, ducks and geese and moved here. It was such a wonderful story. Of course that livestock, moved by train from Berkshire to Kent, was then right in Bomb Alley as the doodlebugs came over, aimed at London. Apparently a shell exploded in one of their fields and killed six cattle and its the only time she saw her father cry.
This lovely farmer is still involved in his farm but its his son who does most of the heavy work these days and his son has said that they are currently just too busy to take on any more work right now. These first couple of weeks in July are key in making hay because after this time much of the nutritional value of the field gets sucked back underground again. He has given us the name of someone else who might be able to help – agricultural contractors who may be able to come in and cut and bale it for us and then he might buy the hay off them. He thought it looked really good quality stuff which is very pleasing.
Should they not be able to help then he will cut it, bale it and take it away for us once they are no longer so busy – in August. By this time the nutritional value is much reduced but it is still valuable to him as bedding.
We will contact these people tomorrow and see what happens next. If these meadows are going to become hay, then time is absolutely of the essence.