There have been many occasions when the region has been able to count its lucky stars as TV news beamed horrific pictures of flood or storm devastation into our living rooms. East Anglia seemed very fortunate to miss such chaos but on the morning of 28th October, for a brief fifteen or twenty minutes it was our turn as trees, large and small, crashed down all around. Twenty six years on from the great 1987 storm, this was certainly the worst since that event although still trifling by comparison. Even so it will be some time before all the fallen trees are cleared but where they pose no danger they will be left to slowly decay, providing a host of opportunities for wildlife just as nature intended.
The shortening days herald the changing seasons and with that another summer’s grazing draws to a close. Cattle are now being removed from the various pastures, a process that takes several weeks while they are housed and settled into their yards for the coming winter months. In some years the riverside has become waterlogged before all the cattle have been moved off and there is always a delicate balance between ensuring that all the grass has been ‘fed off’ and deteriorating ground conditions. From a management point of view dry autumns are clearly the best but do not occur very frequently.
Once the pastures are cleared the winter programme of fencing, tree pollarding, ditch maintenance and other works can get underway providing ground conditions are suitable. Most of this work goes unnoticed by the majority but occasionally farming and urban living conflict as was the case when contractors recently had to burn diseased cricket bat willow trees on private land. This kind of conflict arises as a consequence of changing life-styles and perceptions. Hopefully, the grazing tradition will be able to continue regardless of people’s changing perceptions to ‘cows on the meadows’ for they are crucial to the conservation of the land and most certainly the most important cultural tradition of the Sudbury riverside. There is no doubt that cattle in the landscape bring it to life and it is always a joy to witness their return in the soft months of spring, confirming the continuation of an eight hundred year recorded grazing tradition.