Bridport Times March 2018

Page 30

Wild Dorset

LIFE ON THE EDGE

SOILS AND SPRING Adam & Ellen Simon, Tamarisk Farm

T

aking on a National Trust tenancy of 200 acres immediately adjacent to our farm 20 years ago was a chance for us to expand our arable production. Perhaps we should have been warned by the name of the farm, Labour in Vain, and better remembered the history of it: more than 30 years of continuous intensive grain production had eroded the top-soil and lost organic matter so that over most of the area the soil had become a glue-like clay. We knew it would be difficult to improve but taking on this land meant we could increase the arable rotation from the 20 acres we had on the home farm, hence we were keen to try. It has worked for us in many ways though the soil is 30 | Bridport Times | March 2018

improving more slowly than we hoped. In the autumn we sow wheat and rye, to harvest next summer. Some is sold to watermills around the southwest and the rest is milled here on the farm for sale as flour. The stubble from these crops stands over winter to provide food and shelter for small native birds. Come spring, it is time to plough, harrow, sow and roll, and we put in barley, oats and, more recently, peas. Having used no agricultural chemicals, we now have a wonderful variety of arable weeds. We are proud of these: round-leaved and sharp-leaved fluellen, nit-grass (an aptly named but nonetheless pretty grass with glossy goldengreen flower-spikes), sun spurge and dwarf spurge, hearts-