This is a first. Never ever in the years I’ve been farming have we topped fields in January! Yes, I’ve experienced cold spells before, though these have generally been accompanied by snow or wetness of some sort and very often wind. Never before has the ground gone rock hard, hard enough to drive a tractor over without marking it. And, of course, we haven’t actually needed to top in the depths of winter as this has been done and dusted during spring, summer and autumn.
This week meadows we’ve been unable to touch for almost two years have, in the last couple of days of sub zero temperatures (and lack of precipitation since before Christmas), become frozen enough for us to cut. We’re hoping for a permanent freezing death of the rush – yes, forever dreaming, forever hopeful.
We have only a small window of opportunity. The thaw is expected and we’re trying to top around ten fields and bits of others. It was -5C when I took this photo, during the night and early morning of the 7th January the temperature dropped to -8C.
This is Five Corners, one of my favourite fields, secret and unexpected, bursting with wildlife and a hunting haunt of our barn owls. We top this pasture in a mosaic so as to leave cover for the owls’ prey and other wildlife.