This time of the year we have very mixed feelings about walkers on our farm in spite of the fact that a footpath runs along the side of the beck right through our land.
At other times of the year it doesn't matter at all and it is nice to be out in the fields and meet people to chat to on the footpath.
The farmer himself is a keen walker and goes walking with a group of friends every other Sunday throughout the Summer, taking turns to lead the walks. I used to go too before the days of a dodgy knee. Now that I don't go I do like to quote from that excellent book by Roger Deakin - Notes from Walnut Tree Farm - "The great thing about walking is that it gives you complete licence to get into fancy dress and eat junk food."
But I digress - back to walking on the farm. First of all our pastures are full of young cattle. Now the dairy herds are fine - they are used to people and they are usually intent on filling up with grass and then lying down to chew the cud. But the youg stock - in our case always heifers - are inquisitive and frisky. So if walkers come through with dogs (and most of them do) the heifers come flying down the field to see who it is. This can be very scary for the walkers and indeed it is not all that unusual for people to be injured or even killed by cattle. The best advice is to let the dog off the lead (it is the dog that the cattle are interested in), walking purposefully towards the next stile and ignore the cattle or even turn to face them, when they will usually stop or at least back off a bit. But the other day we noticed a man in our neighbour's field waving his arms and shouting at a group of young in-calf heifers which was just making them worse. In the end the man climbed the wall to get out of the way.
But there is another reason that walkers are not good this time of the year. This morning the farmer begins the annual cut for silage. Yesterday he got the cutter out of the implement shed and gave it a bit of a sharpen and clean up. This morning it stands in the yard ready to go and in about an hour, when the dew has gone from the grass, he will begin to cut it for silage. Hopefully it will all be standing up straight and all will be caught by the cutter. But sometimes walkers feel it is fine to leave the footpath and cut off diagonallly across a silage field to reach the lane. They let their dogs off the lead to gambol in the grass. All this flattens the grass down and makes cutting difficult if not impossible in some parts of the field.
The first cut is always the most nutritious; this year it will not be very plentiful because of the dry weather, but spare a thought for farmers in Essex and Kent where the fields are so dry that they are cracked, the grass has turned brown and silaging is impossible, which means that winter feed will be short and food prices will rise.
Farming is not straightforward - there will always be up years and down years. I suppose when compared with Third World countries we still have it made but our existence is never trouble-free.