Fence repairs are needed after a visit from travellers this year

Despite all the headlines of drought, we have been unable to turn the cows out because it is too wet, we have had too much rain and because of a succession of frosty cold mornings, the grass has not grown sufficiently in the parched earth to provide them with a good bite.

So when the rain has come it sits on the top of the hard ground and provides ideal conditions for the cows to poach the fields and create a mud bath.

Proof of how hard the ground is has been demonstrated by the difficulties John has faced with refencing the roadside fields where the cows graze.

Most of these fields have good hedges and fences, but a winter enjoying the company of a traveller family and the many horses and ponies he was grazing on the roadside verges in our area, has left us, and neighbouring farmers, with a significant hedge repair and refencing issue.

Many evenings and nights became a battle of wits over where they tethered the horses. Unless gates into fields were padlocked, chained, secured, they were opened and a horse or pony tethered to the gate post so they could graze into the field.

Any gaps in hedges were again exploited so that horses could push through into the field, whatever the crop.

More frustratingly gaps were created so that some of our fields this spring are no longer stock proof. It is true some of them needed fencing repairs, but it had not been an urgent issue as the hedges were so tightly grown.

But the field nearest the traveller site had been arable crops for some years and only resown back to grass for grazing last year.

The fence bordering this field was very old and John knew that that it needed refencing properly before the cows went in. However not one of the original stakes remain. All taken out of the hedge, we can only presume for firewood.

A pile of new stakes in the yard has therefore signified some serious refencing repair work for John this week. Plus we have a contractor coming in tomorrow to do a proper job on the new grass field. But the problem has been for John actually getting the stakes into the ground.

Particularly the stretcher posts which are much longer and are required to be sunk deep into the ground, every fifty metres (the length of a roll of wire netting) to provide sufficient tension.

As we do not have a dedicated post knocker, he is using a weighted corn bucket on the tractor to bash most of the posts in to the required depth. But the stretcher posts have to be dug in as the ground is so hard. And it is proving a tough job.

So what will happen this winter if we have our traveller friends revisiting? The fences will be secure but it will take time for the hedges to grow back where the bottoms have been grazed out and broken.

We shall see.

Mrs Downs Diary