FOLLOWING some lovely sunny days, the weather over the last week has been cold and miserable. It was overcast for most of the time , sometimes with fog to start the days and temperatures plummeting overnight to give quite sharp ground frosts. The storms, often of hail and sleet, did not to help conditions, with Thursday being a really awful day during which 24 mm (approx 1") of rain fell over the 24 hours. On Manor Farm we had a total of 33 mm of rainfall over the week .

As you can well imagine the weather was not enjoyed by the recently born lambs, most of which are now out in the fields with their mothers. I do not think our recently turned out Angus cattle found conditions to their liking and our large magnolia tree certainly looks worse for wear.

Each year we can almost guarantee a few sharp frosts will turn the white petals into a horrible brown mess.

Blackthorn, which forms part of the hedges on Manor Farm, is now in full bloom and the leaves on the hawthorn have unfolded making the hedges look very pretty dressed in thick white blossom and fresh green leaves. It is quite strange how one of these two common, spiky hedgerow shrubs develops its flowers first and the other its leaves.

During the week, Ian and Richard have been doing some fencing in a field where our group of Friesian /Holstein heifer calves will be turned out on to grass for the first time. This year they will be going to a different field, so it needed to to be securely fenced for these young animals, as it will be the first time they will have encountered hedges. A stock-proof fence needed to be put just inside the hedge. Once the calves get used to their new surroundings an electric fence will be added just in front of the stock-proof fencing. This will get them used to electric fencing in a secure environment.

On Chiverlins Farm Kevin has done some cultivating in readiness for planting and the winter wheat crop has been given its second application of nitrogen fertiliser. The fields to be planted with spring barley have also been given some nitrogen fertiliser. The other crop Kevin will be planting is peas. He has chosen a variety called Prophet, which has shown to be good in trials, yielding well, standing well and is resistant to downy mildew. After harvest peas will be fed to the sheep.

Peas are a legume and like all other legumes form a unique symbiotic relationship with bacteria. In this case the bacteria is rhizobia, which the plants allow to infect their roots. After this nodules form where the bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into ammonia, which is used by the plants for growth. This means that Kevin will not have to apply any additional nitrogen to his crop of peas, as the plants will fix their ow .

During the week Richard and I attended the Marlborough Downs Nature Enhancement Partnership (MDNEP ) Spring Supper. Before supper we were given a presentation by Charlie Burrell, who farms The Knepp Estate, Sussex. The presentation was entitled Rewilding Knepp, which is 3,500 acre estate. When Charlie Burrell took over the estate he tried to make it profitable, but working the Low Weald clay over limestone was not easy.

The uncertainty in farming also persuaded him to sell his dairy herd in 2000, after which he looked at managing the land in a totally different way. He was inspired by Dr Frans Vera's book Grazing Ecology and Forest History, sending a letter of his vision to Natural England (NE ) about creating a bio-diverse wilderness. After a decade his project was given Higher Level stewardship (HLS) funding and has since produced numerous wildlife successes, one of which saw the Purple Emperor butterfly increase from very few to thousands. His estate is visited by farmers and wildlife organisations, such as the Wildlife Trust.