Queens Award for Voluntary Service

Proposed Ploughing Operation

It was evident from Mike Derbyshire’s history session that there is a very real danger that ploughing may destroy the unique agricultural archaeology of strip lynchetts. It is absolutely vital that this does not happen.

If  ploughing is inevitable, then it must be undertaken with the utmost care and the lynchetts must be clearly marked for the ploughman. It is certain that a present day large tractor and mullti-furrow plough will immediately destroy the field system. The work can only be undertaken with a small tractor pulling a one or at most two furrow plough. A pair of heavy horses pulling a single furrow plough would be ideal but unlikely. Ploughing can only take place in one direction and must be undertaken by a skilled operator who is fully aware of the archaeological importance of the site.

Does anyone else share our concerns?


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1 thought on “Proposed Ploughing Operation”

  1. There is a lot to consider on the issues relating to lynchets and ploughing. The Fairlfield Association’s Flora steering group has been investigating and discussing the matter for some months. The compromise we have arrived at has been agreed as the most reasonable solution by Peter Iles, one of the County archaeologists who lives locally and who we have been consulting. We try to communicate what we are planning to do through our newsletter. Our three monthly meetings Fairfield Association, Fauna and Orchard Group and Flora Steering Group, all of which have discussed the matter, are also all open to anyone who wants to attend and the minutes of our discussion are published each month on the Fairfield Association website.

    We are an environmental charity and are currently concerned with the creation of the best local nature reserve we can manage, though obviously we want to act as responsibly as we can in matters historical/archaeological. We want the relevant field to be arable farmed, with ploughing and seeding in the Spring and leaving the stubble after harvest to over winter, as this is the best option, according to our Natural England and RSPB advisers, for encouraging wading and wetland birds in particular, but also other birds and small mammals (e.g. hares).

    We considered using a ‘no plough’ method but were advised that this would not work without the large-scale use of herbicides and pesticides which we (and many of our members) are strongly against. As an alternative to herbicide etc we were advised to use a soil-inversion method (very deep ploughing indeed) to get the fertile soil down under the topsoil, thus reducing weed growth. But we rejected this option because of its likely deleterious effect on the lynchets.

    The policy we have agreed, after much discussion and taking much advice, is to do a less deep form of deep ploughing for most of the field in the first year and ordinary ploughing after that. And we will only plough the flat strips of the most visible lynchets (just north of Pony Wood) in the normal way (no deep ploughing) and will also avoid the ‘steps’ on those lynchets entirely (they will be left as beetle banks). All the lynchets in the field (many of which are only just visible to the naked eye or not at all) will be ploughed in lines parallel to the lynchet lines, to keep disturbance to a minimum.

    It is also worth pointing out that there are lynchets in the Flora field between the arable field and Lucy Brook (many know this as ‘the Gleesons field’, after the previous owner) which we will not disturb at all (this field will be grazed, as in the past, but with the White Park cattle, not sheep). In addition, there are lynchets in the LGGS field next to the Fauna fields and on the Ripley Heights field too, as Mike Derbyshire pointed out in his lecture.

    We are, of course, willing to consider reasonable practicable alternatives, if anyone has better suggestions. But we have gone into the matter in considerable detail and there is not much time left now before we have to plough the land and plant our spring crop. So if others have alternatives to the approach we have agreed, we will need to know about them quickly.

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