Digglum Bestiaruim ~ The Digglers' Crest

The Digglers

The Field

My field is approximately five acres and when I purchased it in 1982, it was awash with rushes. As mentioned previously, I've already described my attempted re-mediation that went slightly wrong!

I was however, conscious of improvement and asked the then Ministry of Agriculture to take some soil samples. These are described in greater detail on the section on 'The Geographical Study of the Diggle Valley'. The main recommendation was to apply lime as the soil is very acid. This was impossible as heavy machinery would not be able to negotiate the wet land. They also advised cutting the rushes and addressing the drainage system. The stream entering the field needed to be controlled and directed to the bottom of the field where it would enter a larger stream which is part of the source of the River Tame. When work commenced on the stream, it was interesting to find that half of the field already had a drainage system that consisted of stone land drains. The rest of the field had to be ditched. I also found several springs would erupt during very wet weather and these had to be directed to the main ditch. It took about twelve months of hard work to finally get the drainage under control. Much to my delight, I found that the rushes were beginning to recede. I was informed by the local farmers that during the war the bottom half of the field which is clay, was cultivated as a hay field. Standing there looking at all the rushes, this was hard to imagine! However, due to the receding rushes, grasses were now beginning to take over.

Lush Grass vs A Natural Field

Across the valley is a farm with twenty two acres. The owner however, could not use the acreage for his own use. This was due to the previous owner allowing a local sheep farmer to rent the land and apparently under agricultural rights, he was entitled to renew the annual rent even though the owner wanted his land back. This didn't make sense to me and I was determined that I wouldn't rent any of my land. I was working in the yard one morning when Jim the owner of the farm came to ask me if I would mind his daughter spending some time with me as she wanted to learn about horse management. I had no objections and Jim often dropped her off and came to collect her. It was on one of these occasions that he tried to persuade me to alter the pasture in my field by using a product called Gromoxone. He explained it was a brilliant product that killed all grasses, weeds and especially rushes. After leaving the field empty for about twelve months, it could be then ploughed and grasses planted. I didn't think my horses would be too pleased at being placed back on livery, neither would I! I certainly didn't want a field of lush grass. There are several reasons for this. Animals enjoy eating other plants except of course Ragwort. Horses are also prone to Laminitis if fed on lush grass. They would get bored eating the same thing all the time. Whisky (short for Whisky Mac) was especially partial to thistles. He would patiently wait until the purple top was prominent and then take great delight in them. Poor old Toby (short for Tobias) would hardly get a look in as Whisky tried to scoff the lot! How he didn't hurt his mouth, I'll never know! In the field I have patches of nettles. Although, the sheep and horses don't eat them, they attract the butterflies in summer. When I get time when I retire, I'll take photographs and identify the different species. The hens used to fight over the chick weed as I threw it over for them. Even though I have the field mown annually, I keep a large patch of the rushes at the bottom to attract wildlife. They are also beneficial for the sheep as they can shelter amongst the rushes and it is cool for them in summer. Sheep will also eat them. No, I certainly would not like a field of lush grass. I always feel sorry for animals in that environment. My motto is 'take out the ragwort and give 'em summat gradely to eat!!

The Rabbits

When I first bought the land, I noticed a large population of rabbits. In winter I bought sacks of carrots and threw them into the field. They loved them. My horses also love 'the carrot treasure hunt'! This continued for some time until one of the local farmers came across and declared that I was 'mad' encouraging rabbits. He explained that the burrows were dangerous as a horse could get its leg stuck and cause it to break. I hadn't thought of this and the carrots stopped at least for the rabbits. Whisky and Toby got theirs in their feed. I began to notice that several of the rabbits appeared ill. This was my introduction to Myxomatosis. I appreciate there are reasons to control rabbits but surely there are better ways. Many times I have come across several rabbits suffering agonies from the disease and I have asked the farmer across the road to come and shoot them.

Changing Seasons

I have viewed the field through the seasons, watching a blizzard travel up the valley consuming everything in its wake leaving a thick white blanket and me to get down bales of hay! The delight of midges in late spring, the bleating of lambs in the next field and Clyde thinking he was dad to them all! Flying ants that Sooty enjoyed that one summer. The herons perched on the wall as they frequent the dam at the bottom of the field and watching the birds building nests in the now mature trees. To be able to view the lush valley and the rugged moors. It is a privilege to be part of this environment.