Blast me! It's a fen blow !
By pauljonathan, Apr 18 2013 10:14PM
So this morning saw the first real fen blow I have seen for a while . I realised today that there are people who when they hear the phrase ‘fenland blow’ , laugh . One thing is for sure , and that is the image that is conjured up in their minds by this phrase is a few stacks of willow withies away from what a fenland blow really is . Essentially , it is when the tops of fenland fields become dry and this combined with the topsoils fine light structure mean it is easily lifted into the air by strong wind . It occurs mostly in the Spring . This is because much of the land has been prepared as seed beds and is devoid of any vegetation to stabilise the soil . Some growers overcome this by sowing barley on fields they have sown vegetable seed such as beetroot ,carrots or parsnips . The thinking is that the barley will germinate quickly and produce many low level mini windbreaks , which will reduce soil blow by reducing windspeed at soil level . This does work , most of the time .
In the middle of a severe fen blow the air appears brown with a sort of mustard yellow backlight . This combined with the sound of the wind gives you a strange sense of other worldliness , that can only give you a feeling of awe for the power and majesty of nature . It makes you feel as small and powerless as that girl at the start of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ . Your eyes get stung with grit , your ears get full of it and when you bathe the water quickly goes black .
The aftermath can be dry ditches full of drifts of black soil , whole lately sown fields being robbed of sown seed as well as topsoil . Fen people often joke of some farmers field of say beetroot now being spread all over the next parish or he now has a field in the next parish . Joking aside ,this can be expensive . Whole fields have to be re sown and new seed paid for . It is more common on fields without hedges or windbreaks and larger fields . This is one of the benefits of growing a mixture of crops and having a certain amount of grass ley on the farm. By having land in differing states of cultivation wind speeds are reduced and drifting soil is captured . It must be noted that there is only a certain depth of topsoil and once it has gone it will take many lifetimes to get it back again so keeping hold of it must be a priority