Sheep

‘Good fences make good neighbours’ said Robert Frost. Good stone walls make good land boundaries too. Bad ones the opposite. Last year the local contractor did a fantastic job putting in a new fence on the north side of our field. We had it done it because the dry stone edifice was collapsing and we couldn’t keep stock in. Our neighbour at North Farm – whose boundary wall and responsibility it is – has a reputation and nobody wants to get into a dispute with him. Recently, on a freezing cold windswept day, I discovered one of his ewes dead, wedged between fence and wall. Reading the scene I worked out where it got over the unmaintained stagger of stones, followed the narrow course between wood and stone, grazing on the captured vegetation and leaving a trail of droppings as it went, before getting wedged, unable to turn and thus died. By the time I found it foxes had eaten a protruding rear leg to the bone. Consulted our good friends at Southridge Farm and before I knew it they had deftly lifted the dead animal from its crevasse and taken it off for disposal. Only wisps of wool are left now to mark the spot. I guess bad neighbour is now even more likely to let the wall go completely, having the benefit of a fence we’ve paid for work for him too! …Such are the politics of land and the nature of humanity. The good news though is that we have Southridge’s sturdy flock of Blackies back. All in lamb after being put to either Texel or Border Leicester tups. Many have two red dots on the fleece to represent twins. At this time of year, before the flush of Spring grass, these hardy creatures eat the tops of flowering rushes, so slowing their unwelcome progress across the land. The sheep manure the sward naturally too of course. All these factors increase improved conditions for endangered ground nesting birds like lapwings and curlews to breed successfully.

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