Spring watch in Norfolk
It’s time for Spring Watch
Driving around the Norfolk countryside you cannot fail to have your attention momentarily distracted by the glorious array of colours that stretch out across many of the fields. It is spring, so of course it is Tulip and Daffodil time. Over parts of the farm there are rows of yellow, orange, red, and deep purple flowers. The elegant blooms create a stunning vision.
It is also the time of year when the oilseed rape starts to show its true colours. It may not be great news for hay fever sufferers but it does make for a beautiful patchwork of colour, intermingled with the green fields of young wheat and barley.
Spring watch is also weather watch
Already, we are seeing some bright sunny weather, which is lovely of course. But it does cause a headache for farmers and growers when the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away. On our land in both North and West Norfolk, the arable crops are coming along nicely. This is in no small way thanks to the large amounts of pig-poo that has been spread across the fields.
This year we have a lot of land down to carrots. As the dry weather persists, these fields will need plenty of irrigation if they are to grow to their potential. Visitors and guests will spot the over-sized hosepipes that bring much needed water from our reservoirs to the fields. Last year’s long drought made things difficult for growers of vegetables. This means, even though we love glorious early sun, we do also hope that there are some spring showers to add moisture to the soil.
Mixing things up
Like most farms these days, we try to diversify as much as possible. In addition to the traditional crops, we also have land down to raspberries and asparagus. The past few weeks have seen the raspberry canes and asparagus crowns lifted by the hardworking teams of agricultural workers. Now these fields will go back into a new crop rotation.
The other ‘crop’ that is thoroughly enjoying the fields on our West Norfolk farmland at the moment are the young pigs. In February the litters of piglets were kept safe and warm in their straw-insulated pens. Now they are running freely across the fields, turning the soil and grubbing among the roots of last year’s crops. The pigs [and their poo] are great for soil enhancement and, in return, they get to enjoy a free-range lifestyle.
The arrival of some new guests
While it is all go on the working farms, this is also the time of year when bird enthusiasts watch the skies for the returning migratory birds. Between March and the end of April a number of bird species will leave our shores to be replaced by the summer visitors. If you take time out to conduct your own spring watch, the species of returning bird you may spot include: Fieldfare, House Martins, Curlew, many members of the Warbler family and of course Swifts and Swallows. And of course, the bird whose call is the unmistakeable sound of spring, the Cuckoo.
If you are a bird enthusiast, while staying at Rookery Barns it is worth visiting nearby Cley Marshes. This is home to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known wildlife reserve. You walk around the reserve and watch the bird activity from a number of well-appointed hides. There is also an eco-friendly visitor centre, which opened in 2007. Here you will find a café, shop, viewing areas (including viewing from a camera on the reserve) and the fantastic Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre. And the view from the visitor centre across the Marsh to the sea is breathtaking.