A visit to my sister in Buckinghamshire was a welcome break , where I met up with some more family members I have not seen for sometime. Whilst there we drove to College Lake Nature Reserve, one of The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust's reserves.

Despite being a dull afternoon, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the lake, spotting a large number of waterfowl, including swans, geese, a variety of ducks, moorhens, coots and snipe. The trail was lined with trees and shrubs, cloaked in their autumn colours and some laden with berries. On a visit next year I would very much like to do the walk in the spring to be able to see a variety of flora and fauna coming to life after the winter months.

Another place I visited was Whiteleaf Hill Nature Reserve near Princess Risborough. It covers 27 acres in the Chilterns and is made up of chalk grassland and woodland, sitting on top of the Chilterns escarpment. From here there are amazing views of the surrounding countryside, towns and villages. At the top of Whiteleaf there is a chalk cross, which has dominated the local landscape for several centuries. This nature reserve sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty; is 324 square miles in size, extending from the Thames in South Oxfordshire, through Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to Hitchin in Hertfordshire. In England and Wales there are a total of 38 AONBs . In Wiltshire we have three such designated areas: The Cotswolds, The Cranborne Chase & West Wilts Downs, also The North Wessex Downs. In all these areas there is plenty to see and do, with a variety of events put on through the year as well.

Here on Manor Farm, building of the pop -up tunnels that will be used to house ewes and lambs next year has been steady over the past week. All the framework and one cover has been completed.

Kevin’s time has been quite taken up with a crop assurance inspection. This was done by SAI Global on behalf of the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme. All records have to be made available, including crop and soil management plans. The farmer has to show that all machines are regularly serviced, with detailed inspection of the sprayer to check calibration, any leakages and that the machine is properly maintained.

The sprayer has an annual MOT, the certificate for which must be shown. Other checks are made on waste disposal, spray and fertiliser storage, also the building used for long term grain storage. The inspection was passed, with the only comment being about the filling in of a couple of new sheets regarding health & safety.

Another job was to remove the rams from the flock of ewes due to give birth to their lambs next March, so the collies were employed to gather the flock prior to separating out the rams, which have been brought back to the farm buildings to give them time to settle down.

The ewes due to give birth in early January were given a vaccine to help prevent them becoming lame with foot rot. Foot rot in sheep is highly contagious and is caused by a bacterium. It is a very painful, debilitating condition, which causes severe lameness, so prevents the sheep from feeding as much as they ought to, which means they will not be ingesting enough nutrients to sustain themselves and their unborn lambs.

Ian has managed to spend some more time trimming some of our hedges. He has also had to spray a few more fields of winter cereals where large populations of disease carrying aphids have been found. Aphids tend to increase in number when the weather at this time of year is mild and damp. Our recently bought weaned Aberdeen Angus x calves and yearlings bought in autumn 2020 now seem to be fully recovered after the earlier problem with blackleg and an odd case of pneumonia.