It has proved to be a memorable autumn in terms of warmth, fine weather and low rainfall. The effects of the weather were most noticeable where cattle numbers were not reduced during the grazing season and there is no doubt that Freemen’s Commons and Fullingpit Meadows ended the season well over-grazed. Indeed it is extraordinary that the cattle found anything to eat at all. The down side to overgrazing is the potential impact on flora, although on these drier meadows hard grazing tends to benefit the meadow barley that holds sway throughout June. The other down side is the pressure on the fencing and many additional stakes have had to be added to ensure that the cattle do not break through in their efforts to reach some tantalising green morsel on the other side.
With the cattle leaving the pastures for their winter quarters, thoughts now turn to the winter work programme. This includes the usual range of tree works such as coppicing and pollarding and clearing out of silting up sections of ditches by JCB.
On the Cornard riverside there is a serious issue with water-mark disease in the cricket bat willows. Unfortunately a programme of felling will be necessary and fairly extensive in order to reduce the spread of the disease. As neither the land nor the trees belong to the charity the majority of the work will be undertaken by external contractors. Although the disease does not kill the trees entirely the wood is rendered useless for the production of cricket bats and while the infected trees remain in place the disease continues to spread. For a number of reasons, however, it may be some while before the work is undertaken.
On a more optimistic note at Cornard Country Park which the Sudbury Common Lands Charity has been managing for the past few years, the first planting of a new orchard of fruit trees will take place in late November. This exciting project aims to safeguard old local fruit varieties even though the names of some of our old varieties have already been forgotten. Cherries were a particular speciality of the locality so these will feature prominently in the orchard. There are still wild cherry trees growing in the small fragments of ancient woodland in the park along with the specimens planted when the park was first established.