Sunday 22 May 2016

Young visitors to the orchard

I visited the Turnditch Orchard this evening to start some preparatory work for the road side gate installation. My car was loaded with the necessary tools, but alas they did not get used. As I arrived I noticed six young sheep in the orchard eating grass. They'd invaded from the adjoining field. The skills I'd learned in my childhood on the local farms in the Buckinghamshire countryside came in to play. I was able to herd the sheep off the orchard back into their field without them panicking too much. 

They'd found two routes into the orchard. Their main route was through a rickety old wire fence which previously been protected by my electric fence, but alas no longer since the theft of the fence energiser box. The second route was via the field gate belonging to the neighbouring farm. That gate is an iron gate with just four horizontal bars rather than seven bars. It is fine to retain cattle, horses or adult sheep, but the gaps are too large to enclose exploring lambs. After a quick inspection of the extent of the problems I drove to my home to pick up my fencing equipment. Fortunately I have a spare roll of one metre high wire stock fence and some spare two metre treated wooden fence posts.

I was working until dusk to repair 20 metres of fence and install new fencing. I was able to re-use a lot of the old fence posts in place, but I ended up having to drive six new posts into the ground. Once the fence was secure I set to work on the troublesome gate. As a temporary fix I wired four metres of wire stock fence along the gate. I'd previously mentioned to my neighbouring farmer I was considering making his gate secure and he'd been happy for me to do so.

It is the farmer's responsibility to make sure his stock do not wander and cause damage, but I have to be pragmatic and take proactive action to protect the young fruit trees from marauding sheep.  I'll revisit the gate during the week and install a barrier which is more friendly to the dogs of people using the footpath. 

It would be interesting to know who has responsibility for the boundary hedge/fence and the their field gate. The farmer is a tenant of the Chatsworth Estate who actually own the land which adjoins our orchard site. I organised and funded the relaying and restoration of the blackthorn hedge. It had been neglected by previous parties. At some point part of the historic original hedge has been torn down, possibly during works to lay the sewer/water pipes or during river bridge repair work. Whichever it was, it has left us with a rickety wire fence which proved to provide no barrier to the sheep.

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