1st April 2022


Rural Rap

RED BILLED CHOUGHS, ONCE EXTINCT IN KENT, HAVE RETURNED TO DOVER CASTLE, reports the Kent Messenger.  Four of the birds have set up home in a custom built aviary at the historic site as part of a conservation project to secure the future of the species.  They spent the winter at their birthplace, Wildwood Trust, near Canterbury.  The choughs are the starting point for a wider chough reintroduction, made possible due to years of extensive restoration work on chalk grassland across Kent.  This is a joint collaboration between Wildwood, Kent Wildlife Trust and English Heritage.  After eight months in their aviary, it is hoped that they will become the first to soar freely above the White Cliffs in 200 years.

ONE OF THE UK’S RAREST BUTTERFLIES HAS BEEN BROUGHT BACK FROM THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION, reports the Times.  The Heath Fritillary butterfly was discovered for the first at Victory Wood near Whistable last summer.  There is also a recovering population in Blean Woods near Canterbury, where 3,900 were counted last year – the highest number in 40 years.  Numbers of the butterfly increased 14% last year.  The silver-studded blue butterfly, classed as vulnerable to extinction, has also benefited from conservation work on its heathland and grassland habitats.

SHEPHERD NEAME IS BACK IN PROFIT AND LOOKING FORWARDS WITH “CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM,” reports the Kent Messenger.  After two years during which Jonathan Neame admits there were times he feared the company might not survive, the firm has announced a PBNT of £5.4m for the six months to 25 December 2021.  That compares to a loss of £7.2m for the same period the previous year.  Revenues returned to pre-pandemic levels of £78.7m.  The business warned that “current economic uncertainties” and “inflationary pressures” are likely to hit margins in the months ahead.  80% of the brewer’s 1,750 staff were put on furlough at the start of the first lockdown and executives took a 15% pay cut as they fought for the business’s survival.  Shepherd Neame also announced that it will be the official beer supplier for the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race this year.

A MAN HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH A SHEEP WORRYING OFFENCE AFTER A EWE DIED IN ASHFORD, reports the Kent Messenger.  A ewe had to be put down after a dog was seen chasing, and then dragging it across a field near Ashford.  The sheep was found with serious injuries to a hind leg and its body.   Charlie Hawker was later arrested in connection with the incident and charged with one count of being the owner of a dog worrying livestock.  He will appear before magistrates on 28th April.

FW MANSFIELD & SON HAS GAINED PLANNING PERMISSION TO INSTALL POLYTUNNELS ACROSS 57 ACRES OF CANTERBURY FARMLAND, reports the Kent Messenger.  Kent’s biggest fruit producer says the crop protectors are vital in continuing the firm’s success.  It is relocating polytunnels from a nearby base in Middle Pett Farm, which is in an AONB, to Nackington Farm.  A separate scheme for more polytunnels across fields in Chartham was approved last December.  The tunnels will be used principally for cherries.

DEFRA HAS ANNOUNCED A SERIES OF FERTILISER MEASURES TO ASSIST FARMERS, reports Farming UK.   The news comes amid unprecedented fertiliser costs and tightening supplies.  Changes to the use of urea fertiliser will be delayed by at least a year to help farmers manage costs and give them more time to adapt.  Autumn manure spreading will also be allowed, and new slurry storage grants will be made available this year.  George Eustice said that the measures, “while not the whole solution,” would help farmers to “manage their nitrogen needs in the year ahead.”  Defra said the industry must also “rediscover techniques,” such as using nitrogen fixing legumes and clovers.  The CLA welcomed the announcements, but said it was “important to recognise the sheer scale of the challenges ahead in the UK’s food production.”

BT HAS DECIDED TO STOP PLANS TO REPLACE LANDLINE PHONES WITH DIGITAL ONES, reports Farming UK and the CLA.  BT said the decision to pause the changes was made following customer feedback, with the chief executive admitting it had “got it wrong” in a public statement.  The rollout, which saw copper landlines replaced in favour of fibre-optic cables, resulted in some customers in rural areas unable to call emergency services during stormy weather across the county earlier in the year.  BT and other telecom firms had pledged to equip all homes with digital “voice over internet phones” by 2025.

To receive the Rural Rap direct to your inbox please contact info@ruralplc.com