Country mouse on stubble fields

Stubble was a word of my childhood. My English teacher thought that writing it over and over again would somehow improve my handwriting. Rather more excitingly, stubble fields provided the best riding of the year. I could go almost anywhere on my pony, cantering and leaping from field to field.

Most thrilling of all were the great stubble fires when farmers burnt the excess straw and weeds, which resulted in huge swathes of the countryside going up in smoke. Sometimes, it got out of control, particularly with our local farmer, and twice we had to call the fire brigade. It was very exciting, but now, perhaps sensibly, the stubble fires are banned.

Today, if you blink, you hardly ever see a stubble field. This year, partially, I suspect, as a response to last year’s horrendously wet autumn, the fields were ploughed within hours of being harvested and soon sown with winter crops. The fields, briefly brown, are now green, so fast has the seed germinated in perfect conditions. It’s a shame for creatures such as partridge and hare that thrive on stubble, but farmers have bills to pay and weather to beat.

Nature has been asked to speed up, but, as always, she has the last laugh: some rape, sown too soon, has already begun to flower. Nature’s frosts won’t be forgiving.

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