Guest Blog – Farm, Family, Floods and the Highgrove Curlew Summit

Here is Rhi Pinches early spring blog.  It contains farm and family life news together with an interview with her dad about his trip to the Curlew Summit at Highgrove with Project Manager, Amanda.

Rhi is the new chair of the Curlew Country Farmers’ Facilitation Fund Group and we look forward to working with her on this exciting and important new venture.

It feels a long time ago since I wrote the last blog for Curlew Country, with a very heavily pregnant belly! So, four months on, holding my baby girl Hattie, I thought I ought to dust off the cobwebs and jot a little something. I don’t feel in much of a position to comment on our farm life like I normally do, as life with a toddler and a newborn in the winter months has had me rather housebound! Getting about the farm with two little girls is challenging and with the frightfully wet weather is near impossible as I can’t even check the sheep in the car; there’s never been a hard-enough frost to get onto the saturated ground! In-between feeds of my newborn, I have taken several opportunities to work, one of which was to get the ewes scanned. Our scanning of the ewes went better than usual throughout most bunches after putting them to the tups on some better quality grassland and introducing a better quality silage early on.

Me and my little girl-gang have also managed to make our way to the markets to sell fat lambs several times; my two year old particularly loves these mornings out and about, because not only does she get to see baby lambs, baby calves and watch her own lambs be sold, but she also gets to enjoy her cooked breakfast and a cuppa milky tea in a toasty-warm cafe. (My Mum and my Nan have also been with us a few times each I must add, so in-case they read this, thank you for your support). A morning at market is really what you make of it and many weeks is the height of socialising, with adult conversation – albeit chat about livestock!

Apologies for the topic-hopping, but I must add before I forget that we have heard and seen a curlew! I think it was about the 17th of Feb! Guess it’s not just the ducks out in the storms after all?! I wonder what sort of season the Curlew breeding in our area are up against?

There has recently been a summit held at Highgrove, convened and attended by The Prince of Wales.  I was so fortunate enough to be asked to represent the Curlew Country Farming Partners Group and attend along with Curlew Country’s Amanda Perkins as it’s such a privilege to attend a discussion somewhere of such importance. However, being a stubborn, breastfeeding mother, I ‘bit off my nose to spite my face’ as it were, and declined as it would have meant a day away from my baby and she’d of had to have a bottle; so, rightly or wrongly I decided to turn down this wonderful offer.  I persuaded my dad to offer to step in for me, much to his disgust, as he too knew it was a great opportunity but was nervous (and also nervous to leave the farm). So, I dressed it up that it would be a great chance for him and my Mum to make a weekend of it and have a break away before lambing time… to which they both agreed! Once they were home, we spent hours talking about the experience and I thought it would be interesting to include a short interview asking Dad about the Summit:

Who went to Highgrove?

My wife Kila and I travelled to Tetbury and stayed in a nearby hotel for the weekend.  Others attending the summit, including Amanda, stayed there and then on the 7th, Amanda and myself attended the meeting at Highgrove.

What was the purpose of the visit to Highgrove?

The Curlew Summit was a large group discussion arranged to collect and propose a successful method to preserve the Curlew and effectively encourage successful breeding in the future, which could be used as a basis for future agri-environment schemes.

How did you feel at Highgrove with the heads of important organisations and policy makers?

I didn’t feel too bad at the time, just nervous. However, as others have since pointed out to me, I shouldn’t have felt that way as I was one of those attending who had given up time voluntarily to attend in comparison to others who were paid to be there.  The farmer accepting the invitation on behalf of Curlew Country farmers had to make the case for our local farming community.  I worried that others would feel differently about curlews and what needed to be done for them.  As a farmer and landowner I play a bigger part than I really thought.

Did your views and theories meet those of the other attendees?

Mostly, yes. The hot topic in my workshop was certainly predation control.

Was the Curlew Summit educational and useful to you as a farmer?

Yes it was. I learnt a lot from Northern game keepers and how they practice. Their stories and information presented really highlight how to succeed in maintaining the Curlew.

What was the key theory to encourage Curlew to breed successfully?

Predation control, the right agri-environment schemes, good advice and support for farmers on the ground were the main topics that people spoke about.

Did you speak to The Prince of Wales?

Yes, I asked him when he was coming to visit us again! (as he been twice before when visiting a nearby monastery many years ago).

Lastly, on our own farm, are there changes to be made in order to help the curlew population?

Yes, there are changes to be made if we really want to encourage the Curlew to thrive in our area, however these changes are quite extreme in comparison to the way we farm.

A quick ramble from me has nearly come to an end, however with lambing time fast approaching and the Curlew reappearing I fully intend to leave blog number 6 on the page soon! To those who are lambing in this weather, I solute you because it is so draining. (What few cows we’ve had calve the past 10 weeks has been morbid enough and they’re indoors!)

I must also add, to anyone who this may apply to, that I am so sorry for anybody who has been caused both physical and emotional pain by the recent flooding; I currently have my Granny staying with me who has a beautiful terraced house in Ludlow. Storm Dennis raised the rivers and sadly entered the houses where my Granny lives, to the point that the water was almost up to her kitchen worktops. So invasive and so sad and makes us feel so sorry for the people, livestock and wildlife that the evil waters have affected.

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