Friday, 4 October 2013

Footpaths and Food for Free

The two farmers that own and farm most of Harty, have in recent years done quite a bit towards improving the habitat out there both for wildlife and the public that enjoys watching it, but every now and then old habits creep back out.
At "Capel Corner" along the Harty Road the faded sign shown below points to a Bridleway/Public Footpath that runs from the Harty Road and across the farm land to Harty Hill in the distance.

The sign stands alongside the gate below, which is where the Bridleway begins, unfortunately however, it has been rendered inaccessible to the public due to the gate pictured below.

Not only is the gate chained and padlocked but it also has on it the warning sign shown below (there are in fact several bulls within yards of the gate). And then, for good measure, between the two wooden posts is stretched electric fencing which goes all round the bulls to keep them in. I think that it's safe to say that that Public Way is most definitely not open to the public at the moment!

Not far from there, alongside the footpath that runs from Elliotts Farm across to Muswell Manor, there are a short stretch of oak trees that currently form a loose hedge around 20ft high. They were beginning to impinge on the concrete track alongside and a degree of light trimming was possibly in order but of course, as many of us have witnessed in the countryside, farmers these days don't do light hedge trimming. The tractor-driven flail has been out and most of the bushes have been cut so severely that they have been left simply as one-sided bushes. An appalling illustration of how to vandalise the countryside without any comeback.

Moving away from such mayhem and depression, yesterday my partner and I were out in the Sheppey countryside picking sloes and despite what seems like a shortage of them this year, we managed to pick 4lb of them and below you can say me carrying the proof.

As they are every year, they will be used for making this winter's Sloe Gin, a real treat in a few months time after a bitter cold day out on the marsh. This year though, while I will be making a couple of bottles to my usual recipe, Diane will be trying a different one and we look forward to comparing flavours one cold winter's night when we're tucked up indoors. We had locally foraged blackberry and apple pie yesterday and the next thing I'll be looking for this week is the emergence of field mushrooms after rain yesterday and warm temperatures forecast for the next few days. All these things taste so much better when they've come free from the countryside and you've enjoyed fun picking them.


  1. It's disappointing to find such attitudes among farmers, and it always gives me a nasty taste in my mouth to feel unwelcome in this kind of way in the countryside. I experienced a particularly bad example of such in South Wales a few years ago - footpath diverted around the outbuildings of a farmyard, fair enough. Muck heap relocated to the middle of this footpath diversion, rendering it all but impassable? Totally out of order. I did put in a strong complaint to the local council, but such enforcement is generally quite low on the list of priorities for them, especially with limited funds.
    As for sloes, oddly I found that the blackthorn are either totally devoid of any sloes, or laden with them! Two of my usual picking places were fails, at the third picked 2kg in about 15 minutes! Got a lot of sloe gin on the go; as I bottle this in a couple of months I'll be breaking open last year's for tasting!

  2. DDKK,
    As I mentioned, the two farmers in question have done a lot to improve the habitat locally but every now and then they do adopt a "couldn't give a shit" attitude to something, which overshadows a lot of their good work.