It took so long to attach the dual wheels to the tractor that they will never be coming off again. To be perfectly honest, that is no hardship. With dual wheels, “ugly betty” the tractor is absolutely invincible. Fitted with a single bladed rotary topper, the roaring machine has been scalping the rushes on the Chayne over the past three days, covering a huge amount of ground and doing a very thorough job.
There have been one or two hairy moments when the front wheels have reared up, but that is only because the topper is so heavy when raised that any incline just tips the balance over backwards. Lower the arms and balance is restored without much harm done. There was one particular white knuckle moment when I tried to do a sharp turn in a soft patch and the relentless power of the four back wheels just kept pushing straight forward into a dyke, ploughing the front wheels at full lock ahead of them. Mercifully I was able to get the clutch in just in time, then gingerly reverse back out again with no harm done.
I have made my first encounters with some fairly considerable stones which lie furtively beneath the rushes like whales. Without warning, an apocalyptic clang indicates the discovery of some fresh fragment of the earth’s crust, and while the hot, powdery smell of smashed stone sometimes competes with the reek of hot oil, the shear bolts are actually proving so resilient that I wonder if they are actually doing their job. As the flail works through the rushes, there is a pleasing whisper of destruction beneath the raging blades, and the mulch is blown into tidy stacks. The stubbles themselves will surely return into rushes next year, but they never come back as keenly once they have had their hearts ripped out. Also, the sheep really hammer the cuts during the winter, so any recovery in the spring is diminished still further.
In the meantime, I am getting to use some of my theories on breaking up uniform habitat to the particular advantage of curlews and snipe. Both of these birds show a fondess in the spring for areas which have been flailed in the autumn, and it is my job to design something that gives them cover and access to move around. Borrowing an idea from heather management, I have been breaking up long straight cuts with little jumps so that predators can’t see all the way down them.
It is extremely simple work, and I simply lift the flail for a few feet every sixty yards. Elsewhere, I have put in a huge spiral cut with a 200 yard diameter and have plans for a chevron design elsewhere which will provide shelter from the prevailing wind, baffle hawks and provide waders with some decent habitat. While straight lines can be made amenable by jumps and interruptions, curves and bends are the name of the game, and I put in some cuts which make the outline of a traditional coca-cola bottle on one long field so that it is impossible to see more than thirty yards in any direction.
More on this to follow.