BY the end of the week spring really seemed to have sprung. A damp, cool start to the week gave way to rising temperatures, although the mornings were foggy plenty of warm sunshine usually followed. Spring flowers are now well in bloom, with the recent appearance of celandines. These buttercup yellow flowers are in fact a member of the buttercup family and this time of year appear along verges and hedgerows in abundance.

Preparations for spring planting and caring for housed livestock are jobs now taking up most days on Manor Farm. Drier conditions have enabled slurry from our large store to be spread on some of our fields. Another job has been repairing and renewing fencing in preparation for turning out our Aberdeen Angus beef cattle and group of Friesian/Holstein calves later in the spring.

These dairy heifers were born before the sale of our dairy herd last December and wel will probably be selling them as yearlings. About 10 of the older Angus cattle are now being given a slightly different diet. More cereal is being included, which will give more energy and enhance the condition of the animals for market.

The buyers are usually quite specific in the type of animal they will accept, so it is essential that the finished animals grade well. Also some hedge-cutting has been finished before the March 1 deadline and the season will not open again until September 1. We continue to sell our surplus wheat and barley straw, with most having now been taken from our store.

The small elite flock of 100 sheep have begun lambing, so the noise level around the barns is increasing as more lambs are born and need to form a strong bond with their mothers. Kevin and family are therefore kept well occupied checking all the ewes several times during a day. Then there is feeding , watering and bedding up to do, so there is no time to rest at the moment. It will not be long now before main flock lambing is in full swing. Hopefully the warmer , drier weather will continue so that the ewes and lambs can be turned out onto grass.

Last weekend Richard and I visited Ravensroost Wood , which is a Wiltshire Wildlife Site, about 1.5 miles north of Brinkworth. It is made up of wildflower meadows as well as a fine example of ancient woodland. Ravensroost is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI ) and great for birds. Although we saw very few on the day we visited the wood was alive with birdsong, indicating a wide variety.

However there was an air of tranquility as we wandered across Distillery and Warbler Meadows into the wooded area in the south. It was obvious that work had been done along some of the footpaths running through the wood, probably with the help of some of WWTs many volunteers, who with staff do such a great job keeping the reserves in good condition. At this time of year the full impact of spring was not evident so hopefully we will return later in the year when the trees are in leaf, birds are busy, insects and wild flowers in abundance, just to name a few things that will come to life.

During the week Richard and I attended the National Farmers Union Conference 19 in Birmingham. This year the conference was entitled Our Food, Our Future, the subject of my next article.