Keeping wild animals out

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While much of our fencing work here at Dodd & Co is all about keeping animals IN, we are also often asked for the best ways to keep animals out.

As any farmer or gardener will know, there are some animals who are a persistent bunch and will go to any lengths to get into your paddocks and pasture – they really do all think that the grass is greener on the other side.

So we have some good measures that are pretty successful when it comes to keeping animals such as deer, badgers and rabbits out of your cattle, horse or sheep paddocks, which we will talk about in a moment. However, if you are simply looking to protect a small vegetable patch or prized garden, there are some measures you can take to keep unwanted animals out.

Simple solutions

Fencing works best when an animal doesn’t know what is being protected. A hungry animal that knows food is available on the other side of a fence will work harder to get over/under/through the fence. A solid base to the fence will provide a visual block.

Putting electric fencing around your plot is an effective way to keep animals out. You want the animals to  know the fence is ‘live so smear honey or jam on the fence when you first erect it so the animals get shocked. they will be less likely to test it out again. Make sure there is no vegetation touching the fence as it will reduce its impact. 

To protect bigger areas or for a more lasting impact, we offer a range of solutions. 

Deer deterrents

Deer are probably the most challenging of the UK wild animals when it comes to keeping them out. Certainly they are becoming a more widespread problem as the UK deer population has grown exponentially in the past few years.

We use a high tensile steel wire from Tornado as it is tough and durable. Depending upon their species, deer will either try to jump a fence or push against it. To prevent these athletic creatures from jumping onto your land, we recommend a 1900mm net with an angled out-ward facing slant at the top – this will make them think twice about attempting to jump it. 

Badger fencing

Badgers are also a common problem around Norfolk and, unlike deer, they have two means of getting over fences – they are surprisingly agile climbers and they are very strong burrowers. 

To protect against badger intrusion, we dig a deep ditch to sink the badger netting 250cms below the surface with a further 1.6 metres of high tensile wire above the surface. We generally add a top barbed wire as an added deterrent. The wire is attached to durable wooden posts.

HT15/158/8 is ideal for use along highways or areas where badger movements need to be restricted; the closely spaced vertical stay wires help prevent badgers from pushing through the fence. It can also be installed on post and rail fencing or used as embankment netting.

Tornado HT Badger Fence is manufactured with high tensile wire which strains tighter than mild steel and so requires fewer intermediate posts, making it quicker to erect. It does not stretch with weathering so does not need to be retightened annually.

The problem of pesky rabbits

Rabbits are the biggest problem to landowners and gardeners. Left unchecked they can decimate a pasture, stripping it of grass and leaving deep holes that can cause a domestic animal to break a leg. We use Tornado rabbit netting, which has a 31mm mesh, which has been proven to be the most effective some for excluding rabbits. 

When installing rabbit netting, it is vital that we take into consideration rabbits’ amazing ability to burrow. We always recommend a 150mm turn out, with a further 900mm above the ground. This means a total 1050mm height mesh is needed to keep the rabbits out effectively. 

Rabbits have also been known to chew through lighter stands of wire, so we tend to use either the 1mm or 1.2mm diameter wire as it is more resilient.

Who let the dogs in?

We also make sure, if necessary, that our fencing is suitable for keeping out domestic pets such as dogs and cats. Sheep worrying by loose dogs is a rural problem that is on the rise, so incorporating a wire netting fence that keeps pets out is always a good idea as well.

With all fencing however, we take each project on an individual basis. Different landowners will have different challenges, so call Jamie Dodd to have a chat about your fencing requirements.

Make sure your cattle have a good home this winter

We are fully into winter now, with some cold winds, icy showers and dark nights upon us. For cattle and other livestock, it is time to start thinking about making them as warm and comfortable during these next few months as possible.

It is now you need to make sure your buildings – cow sheds and stables – are fit for their purpose, i.e. keeping the animals warm and dry.

If you have calves, then the primary concern is pneumonia. For the first time in their short lives, the calves will be coming into contact with bacteria and viruses that are prevalent in enclosed spaces. They might also be suffering the stress of weaning and being brought into housing from open pastures. The stress produces cortisol, which lowers the calves' immunity levels.

For this reason, special care must be taken when housing young calves, to an extent that is not so important for older animals.

Four factors will impact the suitability of your cattle shed.

Ventilation
Moisture management
Draughts
Temperature
 

Ventilation

Your buildings need a good in-let and out-let for air, so it can circulate freely. This will promote good lung health among your cattle. Natural ventilation uses heat generated by cattle inside a building to push stale upwards (hot air rises). This leaves a vacuum that draws in fresh cool air. This means your building should have an air outlet in the roof, and air inlets along the sides of the building.

One note of caution: the air inlets should be above the height at which the calves lie on their bedding, you don’t want your animals to be lying in a constant draft.

Moisture

A warm, moist environment is the perfect place for germs to breed. Make sure that your cattle housing area has good drainage and the water feeders are functioning properly. Also, ensure the bedding is changed regularly and not allowed to get too wet. Repair any leaky downpipes and avoid using excess water to clean feeders as this raises the levels of moisture and humidity in the shed. 

Draughts

Airflow is essential to good hygiene but the air flow needs to be uniform and not blowing into the shed where young calves are likely to be lying. A boarded surround with no gap at the bottom, up to the height of the cattle’s heads is perfect, with slatted, well-ventilated spaced boards higher up. if you have an open gate to your building, you could use straw windbreaks to stave off the draughts.

Temperature

Housed in big airy sheds, young calves may simply not be able to keep warm enough. If it is a shed of young calves, they might not produce the heat necessary to push the stale air upwards and draw in the fresh air. Make sure your building is suitable for the needs of the animals who will be living there.

A project in West Norfolk

The images are of a simple cattle shed in West Norfolk. The roof is pitched, to allow the heat to rise, Yorkshire Boading ensures good ventilation and the surface is designed to prevent moisture build-up. The client wanted the cattle shed to be open access, so the front is gated but the client uses straw to act as a wind break when necessary. 

 

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Porch takes farmhouse to new heights of elegance

At Dodd and Co we pride ourselves on always producing top quality work, whether it is clearing a yard of rubbish or designing and constructing a beautiful timbered building. It is so important for our credibility and the customer’s satisfaction that we pour the same level of care, attention and detail into each and every job.

Our latest project is a case in point. We were set the challenge of designing and constructing a front porch that would give a new level of grace and elegance to a 19th century, well-proportioned West Norfolk farmhouse. It was one of those jobs where we knew that we had to get the look and feel right because a ill-conceived porch would be like a bad haircut – it doesn’t matter how handsome or pretty the face is, if the haircut is a bad one, then that’s what catches the eye!

After detailed discussions with the owner, we decided on an oak porch, with a clay pantile roof – classic materials, in keeping with the local environment and style – that would add sophistication to the farmhouse.

We used four 6ft x 6ft oak struts that formed the basis of the construction. The struts were 150mm across, so this is a hefty, strong feature.  

Topping the structure off is a lovely looking clay pantile roof, while the structure is held in place with Brett Martin cast-iron effect guttering. 

The porch floor is very much farmhouse-style; large indian sandstone tiles, which are a muted neutral. A single layer of low level steps go from the base to the front door. 

The effect is one of practically and elegance. The farm house is a lovely brick building with symmetrical long windows and a stylish surround of estate fencing and brick and carrstone wall. The porch is the icing on the cake and its beauty lies in the fact that it looks as if it has been part of the building for years.

 

A man's best friend

Man's best friend deserves a good home

Man's best friend deserves a good home

They are our best friends, our loyal companions and often they are hard-working colleagues too. At Dodd&Co, we are firm believers that a dog should have the very best life and that includes a well built, comfortable home.

While the majority of dog owners house their dogs in their own homes, for some dog owners this is just not practical or desirable. Working dogs such as sheepdogs and gun dogs are often kept in outside kennels. This could be for a multitude of reasons: there could be too many dogs to house inside the owner’s home; behaviour might be an issue with a number of dogs in a confined space; the working  dogs might clash with other pets; or it might just be the way the owner wants to look after his or her dogs.

The same applies to people who run short and long term dog-homing establishments. It would be impractical to keep a number of transient dogs in a family home, so outside kennels are the best option.

At Dodd and Co, we recognise that a dog’s housing and welfare needs are important and all of our kennelling options are both well-designed and bespoke to the customer’s needs. But there are certain conditions that should always be met.

  • There must be a large enough space to allow separate sleeping and activity areas. Each dog must be able to walk, run and wag their tail without touching the kennel sides; to play, stand on their hind limbs and stretch/lie down without touching another animal/kennel. 
  • The kennels should offer protection in all weather conditions. It should provide shelter to protect from rain, wind and direct sunlight. Dogs should be able to move where they feel more comfortable, away from direct sunlight.
  • The temperature in the dog kennel should not be too hot or too cold so heating and/or automatic cooling/ventilation should be provided. Ideally temperatures should remain above 10°C and below 26°C. Heating/cooling systems used must be safe and not pose a risk, e.g. no trailing cables, risk of burning. Temperature must be monitored daily to ensure these requirements are met.  
  • Dogs must not be tethered/chained, except for very short periods, as it can lead to injuries and restricts normal behaviour. 
One of our kennel design and builds

One of our kennel design and builds

When dogs are housed in kennels, there are other considerations to ensure their general welfare.


Provide constant access to clean drinking water and a well-balanced diet. Use a sturdy water bowl and check regularly.  

Ensure the dogs are able to behave normally, providing the opportunity for daily exercise, play and interactions with animals and people.  

Ensure the dogs have appropriate company. Don’t let them become lonely/bored. Don’t leave them alone long enough to become distressed. Distressed dogs may bark/howl/whine excessively, pant, hide and/or show aggression.  

Check your dog daily for any injury/illness. Ensure they are protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease. Take sensible safety precautions; be alert to risks that may affect them. 

If you need dog kennels designed, built or renovated, call Jamie to discuss what options we can provide to meet you and your dogs’ requirements.

Blocking the equine escape route

High quality fencing provides a safe, secure environment for a horse or pony

High quality fencing provides a safe, secure environment for a horse or pony

Here at Dodd & Co, we are all about animal welfare. We are farmers and horse owners ourselves, so we are fully aware of the importance of getting the environment within which animals are kept as safe and secure as possible.

Put it this way, an expensive animal should be surrounded by a quality fence. The fence protects everything within the paddock or field as well as keeping undesirable visitors out. It also needs to be a durable fence because horses, ponies, donkeys, cows, sheep and any other animal will test a fence to its limits. Pawing, butting, kicking, scratching against the posts – no fence is going to get an easy ride when animals are involved.

A classic mistake is to keep the existing fencing because it ‘looks okay’. You must make sure it is fit for purpose. A fence that is a bit rickety might be good enough to keep a docile cow in but it is unlikely to withstand a large horse leaning on it.  

This article focuses on the fencing needs of an equine operation. The act of fencing in horses is contrary to their very nature. As free-ranging herbivores, horses have an instinctive phobia of being confined, and even centuries of domestication are not likely to convince them that the enemy does not lurk behind every tree. When in a panic, horses will try to jump over, or run right through, a fence - no matter its type - in an effort to escape from real or imagined predators.

One of the biggest concerns and costs among horse owners is injury to the animal, often caused by faulty fencing. Barbed wire is a no-no for horse fencing as it will easily tear their delicate skin. Likewise, sheep netting can result in nasty injury if a horse or pony get their feet caught up in loose bits of the netting.

This fencing will keep small ponies in and rabbits and badgers out

This fencing will keep small ponies in and rabbits and badgers out

The cheapest option is an electric wire or tape – an electric wire along the top of existing fencing that keeps horses and ponies from pushing against the wooden rails, wall or other fencing. Electric tape is preferable to wire as it is more visible to both the animal and people. Woven tape can be used with a post and stock wire fence for a safe and secure option. Make sure the fencing stands to a height which cannot be jumped but also bear in mind the possible need for lower levels of wiring in the case of foals, which may scramble under the wire. In this case two electric wires at appropriate heights may be needed.

If you are using electric fencing, always remember to charge the battery regularly or use a mains fencing unit. Electric fencing is particularly useful for temporary pastures.

Stallions present their own difficulties, particularly if their paddock borders a field with other males or breeding mares in it. Fences may have to be as high as six foot to prevent the stallion jumping into the next field. Also be aware of potential escape issues when you introduce a new animal into the paddock. Well-established, quiet animals might not challenge the fence, a new member or a young horse might very well take a running jump.

The best option for more permanent fencing is a post and rail system. The fencing will need high quality, properly treated timber and the strainer posts must be strong enough to support the post and rail system. As a minimum requirement, the top rail of the fence should be level with the eye of the tallest horse in the paddock as he holds his head up. That will act as a deterrent to jumping the barrier. 

The thing to remember with horse fencing is to constantly check it for fault and to try to stay one step ahead of your equine escape artists. Contact Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830 for advice on your fencing needs. 

Success is mirrored in arena

Carpet on the floor and mirrors on the walls – the horses and ponies at Heathlands, Blackborough End are in for a pampered time!


A few weeks ago, we posted an article highlighting the early stages of construction at an equine arena in Blackborough End. This work is now nearing completion, so here is an update showing the work we have done and explaining how our work fits into the owner’s vision for the business’s future growth.

The arena has a post and rail surround, two five-bar gates, one at either end, and Tornado Taurus horse netting R10/90/8. Post and rail is a firm favourite with horse and pony owners as it is the safest form of fencing and, although it is more expensive than a post and wire fence, it is durable and you potentially save hundreds of pounds on vet bills! The netting serves the double purpose of keeping sheep out of the arena (sheep graze around the arena perimeter to keep it tidy) and preventing dogs from escaping the dog behaviour lessons that will also take place in the arena.

Sand and fibre make for a stable and soft surface, perfect for schooling horses and ponies and to provide a soft landing!

Sand and fibre make for a stable and soft surface, perfect for schooling horses and ponies and to provide a soft landing!

The floor of the arena is laid with a sand and fibre mix. The fibre comprises thousands of inch-long pieces of carpet, which add structure to the sandy floor making it more stable. The carpet fibres also soak up rain, again making the floor much better for the horses to travel across. As owner Charlotte Carter wryly added: “It’s softer if you fall off too!”

Charlotte and Adam have big plans for the arena. At the moment they have up to 20 horses in livery but they plan to raise this number to 30 in the coming months. In the arena, they will school and exercise the horses as well as running classes, specialising in things such as therapy classes or dressage courses. Dog behaviour classes are an additional revenue stream for the hard-working family-run business.

The arena has post and rail fencing and a sand and fibre floor

The arena has post and rail fencing and a sand and fibre floor

 

“We have invested a lot into this,” says Charlotte, “now we have to start making it pay.”

Besides the fencing and flooring, Dodd & Co has also installed a storage shed, where jumps, equipment and machinery can be stored. Built from 6x1 Yorkshire board, the upper sides have gaps between the wood to allow good ventilation. The roof is made from juniper greenbox profile, with anti condensation backing.

Storage shed for hurdles, jumps, equipment and machinery

Storage shed for hurdles, jumps, equipment and machinery

 

Along two sides of the arena there are mirrors, which the riders can use to ensure they have the correct form on their horse or pony. This is an important part of the learning process as the rider is able to see for his or her self exactly how he or she is sitting and moving. 

Mirror, mirror...

Mirror, mirror...

 

The whole set-up at Heathlands is very professional. From the arena and fencing which looks smart, durable and of the highest quality to the amount of time, thought and effort that the Carter’s have put into the project. This time next year, the arena will be buzzing to the sound of lessons, classes and courses. 

Looking forward to using the new arena

Looking forward to using the new arena

Horse and pony care – we offer years of expertise

Keeping your equine friends safe and secure

Post and rail fencing with rabbit wire to keep wildlife out

Post and rail fencing with rabbit wire to keep wildlife out

 

While we work across a raft of agricultural and domestic projetcs, Dodd & Co started out largely in the equine world of stables, yards and fencing. We went back to our roots recently with a project which we featured recently on our Facebook page – a schooling yard in West Norfolk.

This was a bespoke build for someone who has a clear business development plan and there were very specific needs. And that is what we think sets us apart in the world of fencing and construction – our desire to work with each project owner to make sure that we are meeting every requirement in the most logical, cost-effective way.

If you are considering buying a horse or pony or increasing the number of animals you own, then here are some basic guideline for shelter and security.  

A pony or horse’s health and safety depends upon the fencing and shelter you provide. Your animal should have access to warmth or shade depending upon the season and your fencing should be robust enough to keep the animals in and unwanted intruders out.

There are several fencing options that can be suited to needs and budget. The most aesthetically pleasing and effective is post and rail fencing. This involves upright timber posts with horizontal rails. It is good to look at and very robust. The downside is that it is the most costly fencing option and the rails need to be examined regularly to make sure they haven’t split or warped. 

Horse wire fencing is a second option. The wire should have small gaps so the horses don’t get their hooves caught, which leads to potential accident situations. The fencing is topped with ‘hot’ or electrical wire to stop the horses leaning over and damaging the fencing. This fencing style also has the benefit of keeping foxes and badgers out.

There is also the option of electric tape or vinyl fencing. 

On no account should barbed wire be used for horse fencing as it will easily rip the horses’ coat and flesh. If you are even considering barbed wire, weigh up the potential vet’s bills against the savings made on the cost of fencing. 

While pasture management is not part of our service, we can offer advice in this area and we do offer a clearing service if you need a field cleared of hedging and old fencing. 

Good practice in pasture management is to start with a soil test. This will determine the current soil conditions and will help you decide which fertiliser and/or grass seed to use. Which grass seed you choose should also be determined by climatic conditions.   

Your pasture should be checked regularly for noxious and toxic weeds such as ragwort, which can be fatal for horses and ponies. Most horses with adequate forage will avoid eating these, but if the area has poor grass coverage, or you do not provide enough hay, they will eat the weeds and it can become a serious health issue.

If your horse is going to be turned out during the day, you’ll need to provide him with shade. If you have a pasture trees are one way to accomplish this. Be careful, though, as too much shade will depress grass growth. 

We specialise in bespoke animal housing

We specialise in bespoke animal housing

We specialise in bespoke buildings for horses and ponies and within our portfolio of projects we have designed and built stables that range from a  simple run-in to a fully-equipped stables, tack room and feed store. 

Owning a horse or pony is a hugely rewarding experience – we are on hand to make sure it is also a cost-effective and successful venture. 

Protecting our feathered friends

One of our most recent projects was some fencing work for Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) on their nature reserve which extends from Cley to Salthouse.

Our brief was to fence off the shingle beach to protect nesting ground birds, using fencing constructed to the NWT specification. While the NWT encourages people to visit to see the amazing birdlife that gathers in this unique ecosystem, it is also important to keep humans and dogs off the nesting grounds – once disturbed, a sitting bird is unlikely to return to her nest, so this is vital protective work to ensure the survival of many increasingly rare bird species.

The work certainly raised one or two challenges. Access is always a problem at remote sites such as this one. By its very nature a wildlife reserve is off the beaten track and, as the images show, we used some serious machinery to get the job completed efficiently and to a high level of durability. In addition, the loose shingle meant it was very difficult for the machinery to get traction. However, patience and some great work by the team meant that we were able to complete the work within the time frame. 

Getting machinery onto the beach was the first challenge

Getting machinery onto the beach was the first challenge

 

The length of fencing was approximately 1,700 metres, and we used three strand, high tensile wire. The posts, all timber HC4, included 3”-4” six-foot intermediate posts, plus 6”-7” 8 foot strainers and 4” 8-foot cross members to form box strainers.

 

The work was commissioned because the shingle beach and saline lagoons, along with the grazing marsh and reedbed support large numbers of wintering and migrating wildfowl and waders, as well as bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit.

A little more about Cley Marshes

NWT Cley Marshes is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s oldest and best known nature reserve. It lies on the outskirts of the village of Cley next the Sea and extends to the neighbouring village of Salthouse. The 430-acre site was purchased in 1926 to be held 'in perpetuity as a bird breeding sanctuary'. It provided a blue print for nature conservation which has now been replicated across the UK. It has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area, due to the large number of birds it attracts.

 The water levels in the pools and reedbeds are regulated to ensure they are ideal for the resident birds, and reed is harvested every year to keep the reedbeds in good condition. 

It is not just birds that the environment attracts. There are also several nationally or locally scarce invertebrates and plants specialised for this coastal habitat. 

A new eco-friendly visitor centre opened in 2007 containing a café, shop, viewing areas (including viewing from a camera on the reserve). The newest addition is the Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre, a courtyard and viewing deck, which allows for breathtaking views across the Marsh to the sea.

For information about this project or to discuss your own wildlife, livestock, agricultural or equine construction requirements get in touch via the website or call Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830.

A new arena at Blackborough End

This project is still in process but here is an early glimpse of what we have been doing for one horse-loving client in Blackborough End.

The brief was to turn an old yard into a modern, functional and attractive horse arena, suitable for working out the horses and ponies and giving lessons. The owners also have plans to run dog training classes in the arena.

Some of the rubble we moved to create the new arena

Some of the rubble we moved to create the new arena

 

At time of publishing this article, we have cleared the area of rubble and rubbish, laid the floor, and erected the post and rail fence, including five-bar gates at either end. The surface is a mix of silica sand and fibre, approx 100-125mm of sand and 50mm fibre. This means it is durable and weather-resistant and also easy on the horses' feet. 

The silica sand and fibre flooring provides a safe, durable surface

The silica sand and fibre flooring provides a safe, durable surface



As part of our service, we cleared a metre around the outside perimeter of the arena and this will be sown with grass. We have added Tornado Taurus horse netting R10/90/8 so that the owners can use sheep to keep the grass on the outside edge of the arena nice and clear of weeds and cropped short. The netting will also prove useful when wilful dogs are in the early stages of training!

The next stage is to build a jump store, for storing the horse jumps and the arena leveller. It will measure 6m wide by 4.5m, constructed out of 150 x 150 posts, clad in Yorkshire boarding, and roofed with juniper green anti-con box profile roof sheets. 

The project took two weeks from clearance to completion of the arena.

Specifications

100 x 125 x 2.1m posts.

Rails and gravel boards are 150 x 38 x 5.4m.

Fence height 1.35m

Spacings between posts 2.7m.

 

Nearing completion... just a storage shed to add

Nearing completion... just a storage shed to add

 

 

 

Cutting and clearing dates, one EU law that is likely to remain

While the UK is in the throes of negotiating its way out of the EU, and the myriad of rules and regulations that a 40-year membership has created, there are many environmental regulations that are likely to remain in place and continue to have an impact upon both the countryside and the farming community.

One of those is the restriction on when farmers or landowners can cut and trim hedges and generally tidy the land. 

Under the cross compliance legislation, which includes Statutory Management Requirements and Agricultural and Environmental Conditions, several restrictions have been placed on landowners and farmers with the aim of promoting public, animal and plant health; environment and climate change; the condition of the land; and animal welfare.

The most relevant to us at Dodd & Co and many of our clients are the rulings on hedge cutting and trimming; and clearing land.

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March

Hedge trimming is permitted until the start of March

 

Under the legislation, you are not allowed to cut or trim your hedgerow between 1 March and 31 August unless you have applied for a derogation from the Rural Payments Authority (RPA) and received written permission or any of the following apply:

    •    The hedgerow overhangs a highway, road or footpath over which there is a public or private right of way and the overhanging hedgerow obstructs the passage of, or is a danger to, vehicles, pedestrians or horse riders

    •    The hedgerow is dead, diseased, damaged or insecurely rooted and because of its condition, it or part of it, is likely to cause danger by falling on to a highway, road or footpath; or obstructs the view of drivers or the light from a public lamp

    •    It is to carry out hedge-laying or coppicing during the period 1 March to 30 April (inclusive)

    •    It is to trim a newly laid hedgerow by hand, within six months of it being laid

Orchards are not included in the ruling and coppicing and hedge laying is allowed from 1 March until 30 August.

Under a separate ruling but still part of the cross compliance legislation, it is not permissible to burn heather, rough grass, bracken, gorse or vaccinium on land (other than in upland areas) from 1 April until 1 October.

The implementation of these cutting and clearing dates was introduced under new EU Regulations requiring the protection of birds during both the breeding and rearing season.

While many EU regulations are despised by people in the UK, there is little doubt that some of the regulations regarding the management of the countryside and environmental improvements are both for the good and here to stay. The results can be seen for themselves.

  • Under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, farmers have voluntarily put aside more than 450,000 hectares of land for wildlife.
  • More than 70 per cent of English farmland is managed under agri-environment schemes.
  • The amount of hedgerows has risen by 50,000km since 1990 to 550,000kms.
  • England has about 190,000km (118,000 miles) of public rights of way which criss-cross farmland - 78 per cent of those trails are footpaths. There are more than 33,000km of rights of way in Wales.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from British farming have been cut by 20 per cent since 1990.
  • The overall bird population across England is relatively stable. Of the specialist farmland birds a number are showing population increases Goldfinch, Stock Dove and Whitethroat. The numbers of Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw have more than doubled.
  • There are over 478,000 ponds in Great Britain, with 70,600 created in the ten years up to 2007.
  • More than 40,000 hectares of farmland in England are managed under an unpaid, soil related environmental measure.
  • There has been a long-term declining trend in fertiliser nutrient applications with nitrogen applications in England and Wales down by 30 per cent and phosphate applications down by 57% between 1990 and 2012.
     
Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

Birds, insects and other wildlife is benefitting from agricultural practices

For advice about cutting, clearing and general agriculture, equine or small-holding construction, contact Jamie Dodd on 07766 815830

 

All jobs great and small...

Not every piece of work we do has to be a huge construction. We recently undertook a piece of work on behalf of a client to tidy and landscape an area along the front of three barns.

The barns and a cottage behind them had been renovated five years ago and the landscaped area in the front of the buildings was looking tired and a little scruffy. The barns are all rented so there is little incentive for the residents to maintain the communal area to the highest standard so regular tidying is a necessity. 

Overgrown beds and sizeable pot holes. Time for a Dodd and Co makeover!

Overgrown beds and sizeable pot holes. Time for a Dodd and Co makeover!

When the work on the barns was carried out back in 2012, the construction company gravelled the drive way but left a sizeable area in front of each barn as bare soil. The intention was for these to become kitchen gardens or flower beds but in fact, they had all just been over-run with weeds.

Our first job was to clear the gravel and flower beds of all weeds, so we used weedkiller to do this. Once the weeds had died off, we set about lining the beds with black liner to stop regrowth. We also took the opportunity to repair post rails around the adjacent paddocks that had come loose.

Liner down and weeds killed

Liner down and weeds killed

When the liner was in place, we organised the delivery of 30 tonnes of natural, angular gravel. The gravel refreshed the old material that was already in place and also covered the old flower beds to give the entire complex a cleaner, fresh look. The gravel also filled the potholes in the communal driveway.

The finished job - weeds gone, pot-holes filled and the barns looking as good as new

The finished job - weeds gone, pot-holes filled and the barns looking as good as new

While agricultural and equine work makes up the bulk of our workload, we are available for clearing and renewal projects such as this. Contact Jamie via the website or on 07766 815830 to discuss your requirements. 

 

 

It's a dog's life

Home sweet home for this beautiful working collie

Home sweet home for this beautiful working collie

 

While the majority of our work is with big animals – horses, ponies, cows and sheep – occasionally we are called upon to provide a solution on a slightly smaller scale.

This project is one that Dodd and Co took on quite recently to provide a three-block dog kennel.

The owner was concerned that the working dogs needed to be housed outdoors but the kennels needed to be both warm and safe for the dogs but also protected against the sort of animal theft that farmers, herdsmen and shepherds are occasionally victim of.

Working dogs they might be, but these are also much loved dogs who earn their keep as essentials cogs in the workings of the farm.

The terracotta roof adds a nice shape to the building 

The terracotta roof adds a nice shape to the building 

 

The kennels were constructed from 100mm thick insulated panels, which was guaranteed to keep the dogs warm in the winter months but also sheltered from the sun in the heat of summer.

The building is topped with terracotta box profile roof sheets with anti-condensation backing. This keeps the interior dry and prevents condensation dripping down the walls – bad for both the dog’s health and the longevity of the building.

The walls are clad with deep black feather edge and fitted with galvanised 8cm run sections. 

The kennels are divided into three individual pens with a enclosed space at the far end. The enclosed space is topped with a sturdy lid, which can be lifted to allow the kennel to be cleaned effectively.

 

For details on projects like these or for any agricultural construction needs, contact Jamie Dodd 07766 815830 or via the website.

No place like Holme

Our fencing provides a safe environment for cattle grazing on Holme Nature reserve

Our fencing provides a safe environment for cattle grazing on Holme Nature reserve

With age comes experience and in the case of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), 90 years of experience is helping the UK's oldest wildlife trust to run its nature reserves so successfully. We are delighted to work alongside the NTW on many of its projects. Among these is to erect and maintain the fencing around the marshlands at Holme Dunes. This is very rewarding work for two reasons. Firstly, it is always nice to feel that you are contributing to the upkeep of our areas of natural wildlife habitat; and secondly, it was a task that presented its own set of challenges – mainly due to the wet ground we were working on.

More details about the actual job will appear in a later post. This article just gives a little background to the nature reserve and introduces some of the residents you might meet if you take a trip to Holme Dunes and Nature Reserve.

The views from the board walk towards the sea

The views from the board walk towards the sea

If you follow the boardwalk from Holme towards Thornham, you will have the beautiful, wild sea-shore to your left and the marshlands to your right. These marshlands are home to a whole manner of wildlife – hares, foxes, toads, frogs, barn owls, marsh harriers and a host of other animals and birds. Located as it is , where the Wash meets the North Sea, this whole area of the coast is superbly located to attract migrating birds.

Holme Nature Reserve also holds a variety of important habitats which support numerous other wildlife species including natterjack toads, butterflies and dragonflies, as well as a large number of interesting plants.

Various military remains from WWII can be glimpsed around the reserve, including the remains of a target-railway used to train artillery. Much earlier remains have also been discovered including Roman pottery and, in 1998, a well-preserved Bronze Age timber circle, which became known as ‘Seahenge’. The circle was uncovered by strong tides, having been hidden for some 4,000 years (no longer at Holme, the structure was removed for preservation purposes by archaeologists).
 
Sea Buckthorn
Probably planted to help stabilise the dunes, this spiky silvery shrub is prevalent here. In autumn, its bright orange berries are a godsend to the thousands of migrating birds, such as wintering thrushes, that stop off at Holme.

Sea buckthorn grows on the dunes

Sea buckthorn grows on the dunes

Barn Owl
There are few sights in Norfolk more evocative than the ghostly form of a barn owl carefully quartering the fields and dykes. NWT Holme Dunes is one of the best places to catch up with the ethereal birds as they hunt silently over the grazing marshes in the late afternoon. Calm days are the best time to observe them.

Avocet
This unmistakeable black-and-white wader, with its characteristic upturned bill, breeds in small numbers on the reserve, and can often be watched feeding in front of the hides during the summer.

Migrating and vagrant birds
The perfect location of NWT Holme Dunes means it attracts large numbers of migrating birds. In spring, wheatears and warblers are common, with large numbers of finches and thrushes in the autumn. Scarce migrants such as wryneck, yellow-browed warbler and barred warbler arealmost annual. When the conditions are just right, thousands of tired migrants take shelter among the scrub and dunes in what is known as a ‘fall’.

Seabirds
Holme is a good place to seawatch: with the correct winds gannets, skuas, terns and divers can be watched passing by the coastline in their hundreds.

Bigger inhabitants

Besides the birds and other creatures you will find living at Holme, you will also see some animals of a larger kind. To keep the vegetation under control, the NWT has released wild Dartmoor and Konik ponies and White Park cattle onto the Dunes. 

White Park cattle with some Dodd and Co fencing

White Park cattle with some Dodd and Co fencing

These living lawnmowers play a very important role in managing the nature reserve by removing yearly vegetation growth and maintaining open habitats for wildlife. By maintaining an open sward, a whole range of plants are able to thrive.

Working alongside the NWT, it is fascinating to see nature in action, and all the complex was the animals, birds, plants and humans live alongside each other to create such a successful micro-environment.

Making a pact for animal welfare

Dodd and Co is really proud of the work it does with the PACT animal sanctuary in Wood Rising, Hingham. From fencing to bespoke buildings and stable blocks, we have been working with the team at PACT now for two years and in a future post we will detail the work we have undertaken and completed.

For now, here is some information about the work done by this great charity.

People for Animal Care Trust (PACT) was established by a group of people dedicated to animal welfare, and registered as a charity in March 1995. The PACT animal sanctuary is one of the largest in East Anglia.

The aim of PACT is to care for sick or ill-treated animals, largely by offering sanctuary in their specially-designed buildings. It is PACT's  ability to house and offer expert treatment and care that sets the charity apart from many other animal-care organisations.

PACT rescues, rehabilitates, and where possible re-homes, neglected, injured and abandoned animals. Their specialty is 'problem animals', victims of physical or mental abuse, they are coaxed back to health, overcoming their behavioral distress, and restoring their dignity. In most cases these poor creatures would have had no option other than euthanasia. PACT operates a strict 'no kill' policy.

Since 2000, PACT has re-homed or released 5,000 animals and has more than 1,600 animals housed at the Sanctuary. These range from cats and dogs through to ferrets, exotic birds, horse, pigs and donkeys. No animal is too small or large to receive PACT's specialist care. 

Providing a haven for wildlife.

The site at Wood Rising includes 15 acres of grassland, woods and lakes that is dedicated to wildlife. Dodd and Co have erected a predator proof fence so that injured wildlife, not able to survive in the wild, can be released there to live as normal a life as possible.

The PACT Animal Ambulance, sponsored by local companies, is on 24-hour call out and answers, on average, five emergency calls a week from the police and other people reporting animals in need. Very often these are wildlife that are attended, assessed, given immediate first aid and once stabilised taken to be cared for in the fully equipped veterinary unit at the sanctuary, where there is a full time veterinary nurse, and a vet who visits regularly.

PACT is now accepted as one of the best environments for animal welfare training. Every year, more than 25 students from agricultural colleges and local schools undertake work experience at the sanctuary.

Not just for animals

In addition, PACT has 16 employed animal care assistants and many volunteers. There is also a regular stream of helpers who come to the sanctuary, not just to help with the animals but for their own mental well-being. Sitting with the animals or taking the dogs for a walk offers people with mental health issues a chance to de-stress and relax. Working and being with the animals has proven to be an excellent aid to help people learn to cope and relate to people.

For more information on the work carried out by PACT, visit: http://www.pactsanctuary.org

 

 

 

 

Douglas fir, king of the soft woods

At Dodd & Co we use a lot of Douglas fir for our structural work. The pictures within this article are all of a studio project we recently completed which had Douglas Fir cladding inside and out. One of the reasons the client chose Douglas Fir was because of it’s ‘silvering’ properties. Again, the pictures, which are taken over a period of a few weeks demonstrate the speed at which Douglas Fir will lose its reddishness and take on a silvery-grey appearance.

Douglas fir

Douglas fir

Douglas Fir was first introduced to the UK in 1827 by the Scottish botanist David Douglas. It thrives in western areas of the UK where rainfall is higher than the rest of the UK. Since its introduction, it has become a staple of the construction industry. It is a commercially important source of wood and is used to make beams, veneers, furniture, cladding, decking and flooring.

Why do we use Douglas fir?

Douglas Fir is the strongest of our homegrown softwoods. It can cope with heavy duty framing, groundworks, cladding and landscaping. Like Oak, there’s not a lot it can’t be used for externally, it is naturally durable and will fare better than another soft wood in the ground. Due to it’s density and resin content it can be difficult to treat but we can advise on that.

Compared with European redwood, it is 60 per cent stiffer, 40 per cent harder and is more resistant to suddenly applied loads. It also has high levels of bend and compression along the grain.

As a sawn product it usually comes in planks of 300mm and six metres but bigger is always possible if required. The trees grow so straight that getting longer than six metres isn’t too much of a problem. Getting a different width is trickier but, again, nothing is impossible.

 

Of all the sawn soft woods, Douglas fir is relatively inexpensive making it a cost effective as well as attractive option.

Here are a few facts about the Douglas fir:

The Douglas fir is an evergreen conifer native to North America. It’s Latin name is Pseudotsuga menziesii and it comes from the Pinaceae family.

Douglas fir bark is non-flammable. This protects the tree from fires in its native range.

Douglas fir can grow to 55m and live for more than 1000 years. It can be found growing in a range of habitats, including open forests with plenty of moss and rainy conditions.

Spotting a Douglas fir:

Young Douglas fir has bark that is grey-green with highly scented blisters. Over time the bark becomes purple-brown, thick and corky with horizontal fissures. The leaves are needle-like, flat, soft and flexible, and distributed around the twig. They are green in colour with white-green stripes on the underside. Buds resemble those of beech trees - they are red-brown, scaly and slender, and taper to a point.

When mature, the trunk has resin-filled blisters while the scales on the cones have three pointed tips. A Douglas fir can be identified by the sweet resin smell that is released by crushed leaves.

Douglas fir is monoecious, meaning both male and female flowers are found on the same tree. The male flowers are oval clusters of yellow stamens growing on the underside of the previous year's shoots, while female flowers are green to red upright tufts, and grow at the tips of twigs. 

After pollination by wind, female flowers develop into oval cones, which hang straight down from the branches and change in colour from yellow to pink to light brown. From each scale protrudes a unique three-pointed bract.

Value to wildlife

Because the trees live to such a great age, they provide deadwood cavities, in which birds and bats can shelter. Being tall, they also make suitable nesting sites for larger birds of prey, such as buzzards, sparrowhawks and hobbies (a type of falcon).

The spruce carpet and dwarf pug moths feed on the leaves, while the seeds are eaten by finches and small mammals. In Scotland, Douglas fir forests provide habitats for the red squirrel and pine marten.

Anyone interested in any of our structures using Douglas fir, please contact us via email or telephone. Details on the home page of the website.

Case study - getting studious in East Winch

Stunning studio/gym built by Dodd and Co

Stunning studio/gym built by Dodd and Co

A large garden project in East Winch, West Norfolk, put Dodd and Co’s vast construction skills to the test. The brief was to build a studio which could be used as an office, gym or extra living space in a range of natural materials with an added storage space for outdoor equipment such as a barbecue, sports gear or garden implements. The storage cupboard would then lead into a fence that shielded the oil tank from view. There was also to be a decked area at the front of the studio, where the client envisaged moving a rowing machine or exercise bike in fine weather – although there was little doubt the patio would definitely be doubling up as a drinks terrace!

 

Within the garden itself, a curved path was to be built into the garden, fitting into the slight contours of the garden and wooden sleepers were to be put into the borders to act as a screen and windbreak, as well as providing a design feature within the garden. Additional sleepers would be cut and put around the patio area of the house, to give that space a more secluded feel.

The testing aspects of this build were the slope in the ground, the high density of carrstone under the surface, which made digging foundations for the studio and holes for the sleepers quite tough going.

There was also the challenge of sourcing all the materials, including door frames and windows and negotiating on price.

The dimensions:

The studio is 3.6 metres wide by 7.2 metres long, with an outside decking area that is 2.4 metres deep and 7.2 metres long. The fence that encompasses a storage shed and an oil tank covering is a further 4 metres long. The bi-fold doors are 3 metres wide, while there are two windows, both 1.5 metres wide and half a metre high.

 

The metal trim gives a clean finish to the building and fence

The metal trim gives a clean finish to the building and fence

The galvanised metal around the roof trim is 1.5mm thick, while the pathway, which stretches 12 metres from the decked area to the house is 1 metre wide.

The build:

Showing some great innovation and clever use of materials, the studio has been created from cold store panels, clad internally with red wood tongue and groove and externally with Douglas Fir. The path, fence and shed is also constructed from Douglas Fir. Over time, this lovely red wood will age to a silver grey colour.

The roof is made from anthracite grey sheets with a box profile. Around the edge the galvanised metal has been folded to shape to give a clean line finish.

The shed also has an anthracite roof, with galvanised metal trim and is built of cold store panels and clad internally with Douglas Fir, and the fence line continues unbroken past the oil tank.

Doors, windows and fittings:

 

The doors and window frames are made from dark grey aluminium. There is a three-part folding door, plus two windows. Inside the studio is a deep storage box running along the 2.4 metre wall. This has two top-loading hinge lids. There are also eight double socket electricity points, plus an outside light. 

The garden:

The client wanted some structure and height added to the garden through the use of irregular sleepers dug into the borders and around the patio. The path would make a natural link between the house, patio and studio. A lot of thought went into the precise shape and placement of the path as it was important that people would use the path naturally and not cut across the grass.

The path was dug out and solid wooden bearings sunk into the ground. The path then followed a curve from the house to the studio. 

Sleepers were sunk into the ground all along the south side of the garden. A sharp wind cuts across this side of the garden so the sleepers act as a great wind break as well as a really nice garden feature. The important thing was to not make the line of fencing too uniform, so we went for varied heights and varied distance between upright sleepers.

The patio was also quite open to the elements. Cutting the sleepers so they stood at between 80cms-100cms, these were placed at the four corners of the patio.

Client’s response:

“Jamie and his team have been incredibly professional throughout this whole project. We spoke at length about what we were looking for and Jamie went away and researched materials and costs. He then produced a design for the studio, which we worked together to tweak.

“The actual workflow was well managed. It was a complex process involving the co-ordination of various tradespeople at different stages of the project. Jamie used a local electrician Premier Electrics, to install the electricity and a glass specialist to fit the windows. These experts in their field worked around the regular Dodd and Co team in delivering the studio on time and to budget.”

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Combatting the yellow peril of ragwort

Pretty yellow flowers disguise a deadly weed

Pretty yellow flowers disguise a deadly weed

One of the toughest but most important jobs we have to do on the farm is to keep ragwort under control. This bright yellow flower might look pretty in the first few days it flowers but in fact it is a deadly and fast-spreading plant that poses a threat to your animals and sucks the nutrients from the ground, preventing good grass growth.

For horses and cattle, ragwort is deadly. In the short term it causes stomach pain, loss of appetite, intolerance to sunshine, loss of coordination, difficulty in breathing and loss of eyesight. In the long term, it causes irreparable liver damage as the toxic effects of the plant build up in the liver.

Removing ragwort from your paddock or meadow is an essential part of paddock management, and this includes the dead stuff as ragwort remains poisonous even when it has been killed. Although the plant has a bitter taste, when dead this can be masked if it inadvertently gets into the silage or hay.

Know your enemy

In autumn, ragwort seedlings will start to appear, these are 10-15mm high. Ragwort rosettes can be found growing low to the ground from early spring onwards and the mature plants, which can reach up to two metres in height, burst into flower from May to October.

Rosettes mark the early stages of a ragwort's life

Rosettes mark the early stages of a ragwort's life

Once they have flowered, most of the plants die and some of the seeds germinate in the area where the mature plant has been. Ragwort also spreads quickly because one plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are covered by a fine down. This means that thousands of seeds are dispersed by the wind and this accounts for the rapid spread of the plant in the local area, although there is evidence that suggests that the seeds do not travel a great distance.

Take great care when pulling ragwort

The plant is also harmful to humans, so wear protective gloves and cover arms and legs when handling it. Ragwort should be removed before it flowers, but if this is not possible use a face mask to avoid inhaling the pollen. If you do come into contact with the plant, wash with warm, soapy water.

If you have ragwort growing on your land, it is your responsibility to get rid of it. Although not a notifiable weed – a commonly held belief – ragwort is one of five plants covered by the Weeds Act 1959, which allows the Secretary of State to use a measure of enforcement to stop the spread of the plant on private land. This legislation is rarely, if ever, used.

Pulling power

The easiest way to remove a small number of plants is by pulling the whole plant up, including the roots. It is best to do this at the seedling or rosette stage and, if possible, after rainfall when the ground is soft. Ragwort can regenerate from root fragments, so it is important to remove as much of the root as possible. A specialist fork can be purchased from retailers to help remove ragwort roots.

To tackle a widespread infestation, spraying is the best option, but you must rest the field for the recommended time after treatment. Agricultural merchants can offer advice and information about available products. The dead plant is still poisonous, so you must remove all traces before putting your animals back out.

Ragwort needs to be disposed of carefully. The most effective way is to burn the weeds, taking all relevant precautions. Defra can advise on this and other methods of ragwort disposal. Ragwort control is an ongoing process. As the seeds can remain in the ground for many years before they germinate, you are likely to find that you will have plants to remove year after year.

While the plant is much maligned, as with all things in nature, it also does good. In the case of ragwort, it is home and host to many, many species of insect. 

Queen Victoria's favourite!

Queen Victoria's favourite!

 

Ragwort facts:

  • Queen Victoria encouraged the growth of ragwort because she thought it was a pretty plant.
  • Ragwort is also known as Stinking Willie
  • One plant can produce 2,000-2,500 flowers and 75,000-120,000 seeds.
  • Ragwort is home to at least 77 insect species, with 30 using ragwort as their only source of food.
  • The poet John Clare wrote an ode to ragwort - he obviously didn’t spend hours trying to clear the noxious weed!

Flying pests need close control

Flies can cause misery in summer

Flies can cause misery in summer

It’s summer time and while the sunny weather may keep the humans happy, it can be a miserable time for live stock as the flies buzz around causing torment, loss of condition and sometimes disease.

Here are some handy tips for keeping your livestock at least a little protected from the unwanted attention of flies and insects.

It all starts with cleanliness. If you can keep the living area clean and free from muck, then you stand a chance of reducing the fly population. Keeping the barn clean and using fly-control products, you can keep stable flies from tormenting both you and your livestock.

Double trouble

The two flies that cause lives tock owners most problems are the common housefly and the stable fly. The former are nonbiting insects that carry disease and parasites, the latter are bloodsuckers who torment the animals. Flies – like flowers – are a natural visitor in the summer, but that doesn’t make them any more pleasant or desirable. By removing the warm, damp environments in which they thrive, you stand more chance of keeping their numbers down.

Reasons to swat

If any incentive is needed to keep the flies under control, think decreased output from dairy animals, reduced weight on feeder stock, expenditure on insect repellents and vet bills for eye and wound infections.

If you own horses, think of the spraying and swatting that goes on during grooming and the bad behaviour of ponies and horses plagued by biting insects.

One obvious solution is to clear the manure. Manure piles are prime breeding ground but areas of animal droppings are also rife with breeding flies. Remove debris from feeding troughs, discard damp hay, wet bedding and any other organic matter. Spreading it thinly over your fields is a good way of reducing the fly population while simultaneously improving pasture soil.

Your manure pile should always be placed close enough to your barn for access, yet far enough away to keep flies from swarming the premises. Regular removal of the pile should be part of your farm-management routine.

Using fly-control products.

Keeping your barns and sheds as clean and dry as possible is one answer. You can complement this work by buying fly deterrents.

Fly paper: hung in strategic spots is a tried and tested method of fly reduction. It is simple but it can be unsightly. A fly paper with thousands of victims stuck to it is pretty unsightly.

Fly Traps: i.e., plastic containers with bait inside to lure flies to their doom, are the slightly evolved version of fly paper. While effective, full traps can be ugly and smelly.

Misters: A more modern approach is to install portable fly-spray mist devices in buildings or areas where your  animals gather. These delivery systems work by shooting a fine mist of insecticide into the air every 15 minutes. The products are safe for pets and animals and are relatively cheap to buy.
 
Predators: Releasing flying insects on your farm to get rid of flies might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a natural, environmentally friendly means to eliminate the types of flies that cause the most harm around your barn. Fly predators, aka parasitoids, are smaller than their foes and resemble ants with wings. Their sole purpose is to stop the reproductive cycles of house and stable flies. Various suppliers sell fly predators, but because several species are available, it’s important to buy those that are effective in your region. Your supplier’s customer-support representatives can help you determine what type and how many you need. 

Releasing fly predators should be part of an ongoing programme that you combine with manure removal and premise spraying. Fly predators do not kill adult flies, so you must eliminate them with insecticides. Spray insecticides well away from the breeding areas where you’ve released the fly predators so as not to diminish their population in the process.

Spray Repellents
A variety of aerosol sprays can be used to treat your barn. Some products are designed to stick to surfaces for an extended period of time; others are for more immediate, temporary knock-down action. The problem with residual sprays is they’re actually more toxic to fly predators than they are to house or stable flies. And, as with most farm chemicals, the “bad” flies build up a resistance to the product. Read the labels of the products you buy to ensure they are not counterproductive to your goal.

Fly management on your farm should be seen as a job that gets easier the more you deal with it. Nothin will eliminates all flies, but a sustained effort using all of the tools at your disposal will significantly reduce them.

Norfolk puts on a show

For visitors and residents alike, the summer months in Norfolk are a time when the county really springs into life and showcases just what it can offer the rest of the UK and beyond.

Whether it is the coast-line, the Broads, the Brecks or any of the lesser-known areas in between, the county just seems to put on its finery determined to prove why it is such a favourite destination.

Date for the diary

But while the countryside and coastline beckons, there is one diary date when the beach has to be abandoned and a trip to the outskirts of Norwich is a must. Nowhere is the essence of Norfolk better demonstrated than at the county’s headline show. The Royal Norfolk Show is the largest two-day county show in the UK and it has been in existence since 1847. This year’s event takes place on 29th and 30th June at the Norfolk Showground in Costessy.

Three strands

This year, the show has three main strands: Grow it, Cook it, Eat it, is all about celebrating our agricultural heritage, our produce and our producers. Exhibitors include: Mr Mawkin’s Farm, cattle and livestock rings, Countryside Area, machinery past and present, Flower and Garden Show, cookery theatre, nominated catering outlets and the Adnams Food and Drink Experience. 

Animals and their owners on show

Animals and their owners on show

The second strand is Celebrating our Heritage, which is an important part of the Show celebrating the achievements and successes of our local institutions. One of the highlights will be the presence of RAF Marham as it celebrates its centenary. Other well-known local organisations who will have a big presence at the show, include Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Countrysiders and the Cub Scouts.

The third strand, and a key one, is the Retail Experience. More than 650 businesses will be trading at Norfolk’s largest outdoor shopping experience. These range from top-end retailers to bespoke Norfolk goods and there will be an eclectic range of shops offering luxury goods, clothing, garden design and furniture, cars, banking and professional services. There will be a range of agricultural suppliers present, many with state of the art farming and agricultural equipment on sale.

Here are the numbers:

With more than 81,500 visitors, including 8,500 school children, the 50 catering outlets and 676 retail stands will be very busy. It is also a time for fierce competition as 1,232 horses, 861 cattle, 824 sheep, 409 small livestock, 141 pigs and 128 goats will all be battling to be crowned best in show. 

Over the course of the two days, you will be able to watch a plethora of skills as Norfolk’s finest craftspeople and artisan producers line up to show off their goods. Besides the agricultural competitions, expect cookery demos, tips for gardening, demonstrations of fencing skills, tree-felling, metal work – there seriously is something to interest everyone.

For more information visit the Royal Norfolk Show website and plan your day. http://royalnorfolkshow.rnaa.org.uk

Norfolk Wildlife Trust – a local hero

Sheep grazing on the Breckland at Thompson, 

Sheep grazing on the Breckland at Thompson, 

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust is the oldest wildlife trust in England but it is an organisation that is forever adapting to meet the demands that are thrown at it. There is no ‘resting on its laurels’ for this non-profit organisation. 

Over the past 90 years, the NWT has been at the forefront of protecting England’s rich wildlife heritage, both for the sake of the wildlife, but also for the sake of the generations that would otherwise grow up thinking that a blackberry was merely a phone.

At Dodd and Co, we are delighted to have worked with the NWT on a number of projects, all helping to maintain and protect the Norfolk countryside and wildlife. Here are a few of the many projects that the NWT undertakes.

Conservation grazing

Management using grazing animals is vital for the maintenance and improvement of the habitats on many of the NWT reserves. The organisation owns its own sheep and ponies, whose grazing behaviours allow native plants to thrive on open habitats and conservation areas. For the first time, the NWT has acquired 15 British White cattle at Upton Fen. The cattle are ideally suited to this wetland environment. At Thompson, Longhorn Cattle have been used to improve the grazing of the area surrounding the ancient Pingos.

Coast and Broads

At Holme Dunes the NWT has worked with Dodd and Co to fence key areas to enable essential grazing on the reserve. With landfill community funds provided by the SITA Trust, the NWT are working on these fragile dunes to improve the environment for the Natterjack Toad. There are now areas of bare ground, dune slack pools and grassland habitats – all essential for the Natterjack Toad’s survival.

There is also a major restoration project – the WREN Biodiversity Action Fund – that has just reached completion at Hickling Broad. As soon as the water levels were raised, as a result of the project, avocets, bitterns, common cranes and white tailed eagles were among the birds that returned.

Woodland

Ash dieback has had a major impact upon our woodlands, so the NWT has been layering different species - native trees such as the hazel and field maple. In Foxley Wood, there has been a major replanting project, creating a diverse woodland of species such as hazel, dogwood and spindle, in place of the conifers that were there.

Breckland

Nine sites in the Brecks are managed by NWT, including Cranwich Camp, New Buckenham Common – where a record count of 2,300 green-winged orchids were present – and East Wretham Heath, where rabbits are being encouraged to graze the area to rid it of the invasive plant pygmyweed.

The work of the NWT is so important. Not only is the organisation preserving what is here, but it is encouraging the return of some of the native species that have all but disappeared. Through workshops, events, school visits, talks and a hard-working core of volunteers, the NWT is not only doing conservation, but it is encouraging a deeper understanding of conservation among the local communities.