Smallholder friends who live in the Cambridgeshire village of Prickwillow have lent us the use of their field for grazing our sheep for a few weeks. The sheep are benefitting from fresh grass and it gives our own fields, still not fully recovered from last summer’s drought, a rest. I’ve taken the opportunity to harrow our fields and over seed some bare patches. The recent heavy rain has helped to work the sheep manure into the ground and there is some encouraging re-growth for when the flock returns.
|Our Wiltshire Horn sheep, Prickwillow. These are a
self-shedding breed and some have only partially completed
the process. Note the tufts of wool scattering the grass.
Prickwillow is about 20 minutes distant, on the way to Ely, and I make a daily trip to check on the sheep. The village is surrounded by vast flat fen fields with arable and salad crops growing in the black peaty soil. The fields are below sea level and as you drive towards the village there is a 15 foot grass embankment along the road side on top of which flows the River Lark.
The former vicarage illustrates the problem of soil shrinkage with the draining of the fens. It was originally built with two steps leading up to the front door. Over the years nine more have been added as the surrounding ground has sunk.
The Drainage Museum is located in Prickwillow. Here you can find out more about the network of fen drains and pumping stations. It houses some of the old engines that did the pumping, without which Prickwillow would be another Atlantis.
Despite being a small village, Prickwillow seems to have an active community of artists. One evidence of this is the regular conscription of the village phone box for art’s sake. It has been an art studio, a gallery and a prop for different art works. Here are some of its many guises:-
None of this will interest my sheep, but they are nevertheless enjoying the grass.