I was going to report on our wheat yields but everyone I talk to, from all points north, west, east and south seems to have had a bumper wheat harvest.
So suffice to say my harvest was probably much as yours. We had double-digit wheat yields tempered by plummeting prices that seem to be fast heading for double digits as well. So instead I thought I’d report something unusual that happened on the farm in August.
Farming on the urban fringe as we do we frequently find curious things on the edge of some of our fields such as: cannabis plants growing in buckets; blow-up dolls; burnt out Range Rovers, that sort of thing. So when one morning last month when cultivating a headland the discs kicked up a 10kg flat-based rusty metal dome about 10in in diameter with some sort of corroded switches on the top, I just kicked it towards the ditch and thought little more about it. But a couple of hours later, as I stopped for a quick lunch break, I took a second look and pondered what it might be.
In 1940, much of the Essex and Suffolk coast was covered in land mines because the MOD were convinced that was where Hitler’s invasion plans – known as Operation Sea Lion – were focused. My Dad had a story of how the landlord of one of the village pubs committed suicide by deliberately wandering into one of the minefields at the edge of the farm after his wife ran off with a naval officer.
Obviously, I was confident it wasn’t actually a live bomb – after all I’d already given it a good kicking. But as I chewed on my ham sandwich while sat in the tractor cab I wondered if I ought to be super-responsible and tell someone in authority, just in case. On the other side of the ditch to where the unidentified lump was now sat was St.Osyth caravan camp and beyond that, St.Osyth nudist beach. These are places where people can be vulnerable. Caravans would offer very little protection to explosive devices, and as for the nudists on the beach then clearly flips flops and sun cream are no replacement for protective boots and bomb-proof vests.
So I phoned 101 to be eventually put through to a nice bloke called Dave who agreed with me that it didn’t sound like a bomb but suggested I email over a photo, just to be on the safe side. Having sent the pic over from my iPhone I didn’t think any more about it, until the blue flashing lights appeared at the edge of the field. Four police cars with six officers had turned up to isolate the area. They were followed 20mins later by the Army Bomb Disposal Unit who took one look at the lump and concluded it wasn’t a bomb. The cordon tape was duly taken down and plans to evacuate 5000 holiday makers and fifty nudists were aborted.
So, this autumn, when the hare coursers inevitably turn up, I’ll be tempted to add ‘and by the way, I think I’ve found a bomb’ to ensure a speedy and robust police response. But I won’t be so irresponsible.
Guy Smith grows 500ha of combinable crops on the north east Essex coast. @EssexPeasant