January… well there were some more seasonal, colder days and time to take some photographs around the estate; the one above is when we had a cold and foggy morning at Cobbs Wood Farm.
After the tree planting we did just before Christmas, it was time to inspect the trees we had planted in the Park in the last six or seven years. Some trees had died which is quite usual (in forestry terms when we come to replace the dead trees it’s called beating up), but some areas seemed to have suffered more than others and I think that was due to the extremely wet weather we encountered that year. Anyway, a week of beating up the dead trees had the job done. All tree guards had live trees in them.
Always quite interesting when we have to re dig the holes as we sometimes find great crested newts, or toads or occasionally some frogs, but we also find a lot of the pesky short-tailed vole (who incidentally can be responsible for the death of a number of the saplings as they love to chew the bark off the sapling trees at ground level). I came across a pygmy shrew in one guard and I am always impressed as to how active these tiny mammals are.
‘Tis the season of murmurations and the starlings are still increasing in numbers down in the South Avenue where they roost in the reed bed.
I wonder if the numbers will increase in February? I do hope so as it is a spectacular sight to see.
Some frosty weather photos from January:
It is the best season for planting trees and this time it was off to the farmland to plant as many trees as we could so that there are good timber trees in the future (which will incidentally also help the wildlife). In fact it has always been a management practice on the Wimpole Estate as can be seen below in the farm agreement between the third Earl of Hardwicke and Joseph Custerson
“Articles of Agreement made the third day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty-six between Richard Barton for and on behalf of the Right Honourable Philip Earl of Hardwicke of the one part and Joseph Custerson of Wimple in the County of Cambridge Farmer of the other part as follows (viz.)
1. The said Richard Barton hath to farm lett unto the said Joseph Custerson and he hath agreed to take all that farm in Wimple aforesaid now in the occupation of him the said Joseph Custerson of a yearly rent of seventy four pounds and for the term of twelve years from Lady day last, Old style, the said yearly rent to be paid by the said Joseph Custerson half yearly at Michaelmas and Lady day in every year.
2. The said Richard Barton excepts and reserves to the use of the said Earl as well all timber and timber like trees as pollards and all other trees and the tops and lops thereof and also all hedges, bushes and underwood growing and being or to grow and be upon the premises. Never the less the said Joseph Custerson shall be allowed wood in the rough sufficient for his own use upon the premises for hedgeboot, plowboot and cartboot (wheels excepted) as also for cow racks and hurdles for sheepfold if wanted and provided such and so much wood be growing on the premises, the said wood to be assigned and set out by the steward of the said Earl for the time being and not also taken and to be used only in the business of the said farm – and when it shall happen that the said Joseph Custerson shall be desirous (with leave obtained) to plash any quick hedge or cut down border or coppice of bushes or underwood for fencing or other purposes he shall give at least ten days notice thereof to the steward of the said Earl for the time being in order to his marking or setting out such young trees there as shall be thought likely to become timber and on plashing such hedge or cutting up such border or copse of bushes or underwood he the said Joseph Custerson shall well scour out the ditch there and browboard the quick and set a backhedge thereto as he shall likewise do to any such border or copse of bushes and underwood or use some other proper and effectual means to preserve the same and the young trees there from the bite of cattle or other damage.
3. The said Joseph Custerson shall and will at his own charge keep all the hedges, ditches, gates, rails and stiles as also all the glass windows, the lathing and thatching and splenting and claying belonging to the said premises in good condition and repair during all the said term (casualties by fire and uncommon storms of wind excepted) and at the said end thereof leave the same in such good tenantable condition and repair as shall in the judgement of two indifferent persons to be chosen the one by the said Earl and the other by the said Joseph Custerson be thought fit for a succeeding tenant to accept, rough timber or other proper wood when necessary, to be allowed the said Joseph Custerson for the doing thereof by assignment of the said Earl, if such wood be growing upon the premises
4. The said Joseph Custerson shall and will over and above the said yearly rent pay also to the said Earl at the rate of five pounds per acre additional rent – yearly for every piece and parcel of sward and pasture ground part of the said farm which he shall break up or convert into tillage without the consent of the said Earl first obtained
5. The said Joseph Custerson having obtained leave of the said Earl to plow up or convert into tillage ten acres of the North West side of one close of pasture called church close doth promise and agree on his part never to take from the said ten acres more than three crops between fallow and fallow after the very first crop and to lay down the same well sown with grass seeds three years before the expiration of the said term or in default thereof to pay ten shillings per acre yearly additional rent for every of the three years of the ten acres or any part thereof shall remain not so well laid down, unless a new agreement shall be made to the contrary three years before the expiration of this present agreement, and the said Joseph Custerson doth further promise to lay the mole hills and ant hills in the rest of the said close and to keep and leave the same well laid
6. The said Joseph Custerson shall use all the arable land of the said farm according to the common course of husbandry practised in farms of the like nature at Wimple, taking no more than three crops from the same piece of land without the intervention of a summer’s fallow and at the expiration of the said term —— leave as near as the seasons will permit one third part of the arable land (excluding the ten acres before mentioned) fallow for the succeeding tenant to enter upon and one fourth part at least of the rest sown with barley and another fourth part with peas or beans.
7. The said Joseph Custerson shall over and above the said yearly rent or rents bear and pay all taxes rates and parish duties wherewith the premises shall be charged during the said term, the land tax only excepted, and shall moreover fetch to the farm whatever materials may be wanted for the reparations thereof without any allowance for the same.
8. The said Joseph Custerson not sell or suffer to be carried off the premises (unless with the leave or for the proper use and consumption of the said Earl) any hay, straw or stover that shall grow as arise there (dressing and cavings of his last crops and such a quantity of hay as shall in the judgement of some indifferent person to be chosen by the said Earl and the said Joseph Custerson be thought both sufficient and necessary to sustain his cows until May day O S and for rackment for his horses until midsummer next after the expiration of the said term only excepted) but shall spend and use the same upon the premises as he shall likewise do all the dung and compost that shall arise or be made there, or leave the same for the use and benefit of the next succeeding tenant; nor shall he plow in his ——— the last year of the said term bur shall cut up and carry it home to the farm yard for purposes of the farm there.
9. The said Joseph Custerson shall be allowed to take to his own use the crop of grain that shall be growing upon the farm the next season after the expiration of the said term (provided the rents aforesaid be duly paid and the other convenient performed and kept) and shall have convenient room allowed hi in the barns, yards and backyards until the midsummer come twelve month next after the expiration of the said term for laying up the said crop and for foddering out the straw and stover thereof to his cattle.
Lastly the said Joseph Custerson shall when thereunto required by the said Earl take a lease of the said premises and make and execute a counterpart thereof according to the articles above written with such other clauses provisos and limitations as are usual in leases of farms of the like nature at Wimple aforesaid.
In witness whereof they the said Richard Barton and Joseph Custerson have hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year above written
Witness to the signing sealing and delivery
William Johnson Richard Barton (seal)
Peter Moss Joseph Custerson (seal)”
A very interesting document that gives you an insight into the farming practices on the Wimpole Estate in the 18th century.
Back to the Park to plant the last twenty or so parkland trees…had to delay these until I found a source of Indian horse-chestnut trees. Very hard to come by but worth a try as they are apparently less susceptible to horse-chestnut leaf miner and phytophera.
Had a few more evenings when the sky was fire-red.
Another job we have been undertaking this winter is feeding the wild birds with waste wheat and barley- these were actually the tailings from the seed dressing. We have about six tons to use and it’s proving very popular with the yellow hammers, corn buntings, reed buntings and chaffinches. Mind you it seems the damned wood pigeons are now getting in on the act!!!!!!