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Spalding area farmer Richard Barlow looks at the neglect of land drainage which is being seen on many farms

The deluge of the last nine months has shown that field drainage has been neglected by many farms.

In the days when farms employed farm labourers as a class of employee, a winter’s job for them would be bottoming debris out of dykes and clearing tunnel ends and field drain pipe outlets.

Now that every job on the farm is mechanised, those that can only be done manually often get conveniently forgotten about!

5 tonne digger has been in action clearing dykes (27127096)
5 tonne digger has been in action clearing dykes (27127096)

You only need to drive around the area and see roadside dykes full to the brim because the original dyke system that used to let the water flow away into the Drainage Board drains have been filled in further downstream.

The same has happened infield as well. Many farms used to be made up of 5 to 10 acre fields, but in the 60s and 70s dash to large scale mechanisation lots of dykes were filled in to create more than 40 acre fields. If done properly an infield drainage scheme would have been installed, but was often not to “save” money.

We have had a 5 tonne mini digger on the farm for several years and have a 2m weed bucket that fits on it. It can clean out a remarkably long length of dyke in a short time, even if the dyke has been neglected for quite some number of years.

Richard Barlow (13500991)
Richard Barlow (13500991)


It is one of those pieces of equipment, like the telehandler, that before you have one available you wonder if you really have a need for it, but once you have, find it gets used on numerous occasions. It’s certainly has been a better purchase than the PTO (power take-off) driven generator that we, like nearly every other farmer, purchased in the 70s and still sits in the back of the shed unused!

As I write this, the weather has at last turned cooler and it looks like we may be going to get a period of dry weather for the first time since early September.Despite our mini digger we still have plenty of waterlogged fields but this weather window may give us a chance to start some cultivations.

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