Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring–drying, draining, farming and picnics

Tuesday, 11th March 2014:  Once you get a bit of a dry spell the Flatlands seem to dry out fairly quickly. Although there has bee a lot of drain (ditch) maintenance and one or two of the soggier fields have had temporary drainage trenches cut to accelerate the drying. Farmers try to avoid leaving things to chance.

There is a deal of ploughing, harrowing and drilling taking place at the moment in the Flatlands around Wicken Fen.  This field, adjacent to White Fen has been ploughed over the last couple of days.

Freshly Ploughed Field – Alongside White Fen

A bit further along and quite a few of the fields either side of Great Drove, heading towards Upware as also looking pancake smooth with the peat-rich soil freshly worked.

A few years back I have seen these fields used to grow daffodils, for bulbs rather than the flowers I think. Along the edges of the roads you can still see evidence as stray clumps of daffodils grown.

Random Clumps of Daffodils in the verge alongside Great Drove

As I mentioned there are a good few drains (ditches) all around the place, running between the fields. Although they are generally always kept in good order this year they seem particularly clear – although with a fair bit of water in them. Reach Lode runs left-right on the horizon a few metres above the level of the fields.

Inter-Field Drain – in good order  - but quite a lot of water

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode lies at the on the horizon of this picture. The trees might be bare – crops are quickly springing up in the fields though.

Crops emerging in neatly serried ranks along  Great Drive

I hadn’t really thought about how close Upware was to the A10 and the Kings Lynn to Cambridge Railway Line until the other day. As was standing looking out over the Upware Washes I noticed a train.

Train running through the flatlands – near Upware

Although I find the idea that good farm land should be turned over to large solar farms a little odd. I have to admit that the visual impact isn’t too bad.  Just below the tree horizon is the Chittering Solar Farm – a thin strip of white.

Solar Farms use a lot more space than Wind Farms and generate a lot less power per acre. However they seem to offer the promise of getting the land back at the end of their useful life (25-30 years). Apparently the panels will still produce at least 80% of their initial rated peak output after 20 (or 25) years.

This link to the OSM map shows the Solar Array marked as Radical Farm Solar Array. It only appears on the cycle version of the OSM map and not on the Standard version.

Chittering Solar Farm – seen from Upware Washes

A more traditional view of the Upware Washes
(Not looking quite so washy)

This is another view of the Washes – to the right is the Five Miles form Anywhere No Hurry Inn.   It has parking for cars and boats.

Upware Washes – Five Miles Inn

This was totally flooded in February (Watery Fens).

Not So Watery Upware Washes

I hadn’t noticed, but the NT have popped some picnic tables into the car park near the Burwell Lode Footbridge. MikeC pointed them out to me.

Picnic Tables near Burwell Lode Footbridge

The View from the Burwell Lode Footbridge

The View from the Reach Lode Bridge

To the right is Split Drove, to the left is Commissioners’ Drain in the middle is my shadow.

Split Drive and Commissioners’ Drain – Lodes Way

A Sluice along Commissioners Drain

With the huge amount of development here in the Cambridgeshire area it also creates a demand for turf for all those new houses. A fair bit of turf is grown  around here to meet that demand.  I do wonder about the loss of the peat soil as the turf is lifted. Apparently it is about 1cm. In the US it is called sod and again research has concluded it will not deplete topsoil. I suppose all forms of agriculture will inevitably deplete the soil which is why farmers have to use fertilisers after all. We must also remember that farmers need to make a living as well. There ids a Turf Growers Association. I guess that the significant commercial cultivation of turf for sale is perhaps an unintended consequence of the drive for huge levels of housing development in the UK.

A Turf field being harvested along Lodes Way

I ventured on one of the off-road short-cuts just before White Fen. I turn right where Headlake Drove becomes Whiteway Drove and them down alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode.  The track was pretty solid – the worst bit was alongside the Lode where some large potholes have formed – I almost had an unplanned dismount when I went into one and the bike almost stopped. It was a good job I was standing on the pedals as I might also have had an unfortunate crossbar injury.

A freshly drilled field alongside Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

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