Advantages of Farmification on Public Land
Spot the benefits of farm management on Blacka. Make your own scoresheet. 5 points for each of the features listed below that you see in the course of your walk
1 Fences, long stretches and conspicuous, preferably of barbed wire but other styles are acceptable. (though not too many stiles.)
2 Access arrangements associated with the above - gates should not be too convenient or well sited and should always present some kind of challenge. This all gives the vital message that the countryside is no easy-going outing for idle townies and their wives, dogs and children.
3 Plenty of mud around gates and other access points to remind visitors that this is a place of work with all that goes with it.
4 The animals themselves usually with that delightfully gormless facial expression characteristic of farm livestock and utterly lacking the wariness and quick intelligence of wildlife. Bonuses for sheep and especially lambs with splashes of dye across their backs. Numerals in red yellow or blue have now become standard for the progressive and aesthetically-conscious livestock manager.
5 Er, shit - plenty of it - cow pats, splatters, soggy puddles of the stuff, plentifully inhabited by those charming yellow flies that live on it, all tastefully decorating the paths which are the cows' preferred dropping zones. Wildlife, such as deer for example, are such a disappointment in this respect and very rarely drop on paths, which is why good farmification managers are always talking of culling.
6 As an addition to the previous point, the pervading smell of farm animals and the aroma of urine that wafts enticingly in the breeze, something that is quite absent on a boring natural site with its disquieting and unreal sense of freshness.
7 Vehicle tracks across the land showing good evidence that heavy machinery, much loved by the farming industry has been around. Without tracks like this people might get the idea that modern farmers can walk in the way they used to in days gone by.
8 Farm accessories such as aluminium hurdles placed in areas of high visibility again to remind visitors such as 'townies' that this is a working environment and farming is a serious industry.
9 Plenty of evidence of farm litter such as black plastic and cast-off bags of ruminant feed and plastic buckets of animal lick.
10 Extensive areas of well chewed grass with just the odd manky creeping thistle or a group of nettles still remaining illustrating the need to avoid sentimental appeal to lovers of wild flowers and other pansies.
11 As a concession to towny visitors who mostly work in offices, plentiful notices on A4 laminated sheets telling them what a spiffing job the livestock are doing in the landscape and an even better job by the local wildlife trust. You may not be able to see it. It may look just the opposite. But who's so badly educated as to believe what they see rather than what they're told?
12 A really good farmification site will provide opportunities to see sheep and lambs enjoying the stresses that go with their difficult but essential role in helping to manage our countryside. Evidence that they have been lying in their own excrement is a good example of this. They may have scab or mite infestation identified by fleece peeling from their backs. Or they may be lame. Seeing these will score extra credit points for farmification lookerers. If you're fortunate you may even see the occasional dead animal. A few old bones and even a substantial skeleton are all possible. These give a unique perspective to the reality of a life on the land as it is today and will show that this is modern farming where there is no place for old fashioned sentimentality.
13 Finally there is one feature that will not be seen on the site, but is still important: all that behind the scenes paperwork that is the real serious business of farmification, bringing the chance to indulge that talent for writing fairy tales you developed at primary school, and, alongside it, its essential measure of worth: the cheques for Single Farm Payment or Environmental Stewardship or Higher Level Stewardship. Without these the ignorant public might get the idea that the farmification is not worth going in for.