Whoever it is that controls the Seasons needs a gentle reminder that it’s supposed to Spring.
Having just walked the dogs over the fields in biting easterly winds it seems hard to believe it’s Easter. The land this year is bereft of fresh green shoots, the crops tentatively poke up from the soil looking for a glimpse of the sun. I’m sure the farmers are cursing the fact that they couldn’t get in an autumn sowing of the unattractively named Oilseed Rape, the fields were flooded. Normally at this time the Marsh is virtually blanketed by this profitable plant.
You know how they say “no matter where you are you are never further than 5 metres from a rat”. On the Marsh in Spring that’s how it tends to feel with this ubiquitous yellow flowered brassica.
Rapeseed as it is also known, is the third biggest source of vegetable oil in the world (sometimes it seems that most of it is grown on the Romney Marsh). I saw a bottle of the golden liquid in Waitrose today, it wasn’t cheap and was with the premium cooking oils.
Rapeseed oil was originally used in the 19th century as a lubricant for steam engines. Now, in addition to its use in the food industry it’s also a bio-fuel.
The problem with this crop is it’s so anti-social. The intense colour of the flowers is ok to a point, if you like bright yellow. But the heavily scented pollen fills the air in Spring and is a living hell for hay-fever sufferers.
The farmers clear a 2 metre wide path in the fields to keep the Rights of Way open. Despite this the seven or eight foot high crop collapses over the footpaths rendering them impassable. After flowering the Rapeseed crop shows its true colours as a brassica. The plants go into a decline and give off a smell like rotting cabbage. Eventually the precious seeds are harvested and whisked off for turning into oil. The cut stalks in the fields now resemble a sea of daggers which are distinctly hazardous to walk on.
However, (and I’m sure the farmers won’t agree), some nice fields of peas, potatoes or wheat are a lot easier to live with!