News and blog Friday's Farming Thoughts Entry #1 - Gary Rumbold: A Living Experiment It seems to take a crisis for us to re-examine our behaviour and then make fundamental changes to the way we live. For years, I have justified a great deal of travel across the South West of England for work as being necessary, when in fact the video conferencing technology was there all along that meant I could cut down on a great deal of those carbon emitting, costly, time consuming motorway miles. I cannot deny that I am missing some proper human contact though, and I look forward to getting out again to see farmers and the wonderful work they are doing to conserve our farmed environment. But, for now, I am making the most of all that is local and turning my gaze closer to home by enjoying the smaller things in life. I am very lucky to live in a very small rural village in Somerset, which means I can get out every day and take my hour’s exercise, with my family, and walk straight into open countryside. It is a luxury that many of my friends living in urban areas do not have, and a luxury I am very grateful for. For now, almost all my colleagues and I are working from home and I am writing this on a sunny day looking out over our village. From the field behind my house I can hear the skylark’s song carrying through to my study window and I know that later today I am likely to have several close encounters with them as I take my stroll. Skylarks really are one of those joyous sounds of Summer, which remind me of the erratic but incessant beat of the electronic dance music I listened to in my misspent youth. Apologies to the classical music lovers who will have a much more scholarly comparison I am sure! On our walks we have also spotted early purple orchids, orange tip butterflies, carpets of wild garlic and bluebells as well as the buzzards and the rooks in aerial combat near the rookeries where they are protecting their newly built nests. Closer to home I have green woodpeckers hoovering up the ants in my lawn and a spotted woodpecker that has now got a taste for the peanuts in the bird feeders. And what really makes me happy is that I can share these natural wonders with my family and see a spark of interest in the eyes of a 12-year-old boy that normally can only get excited about video games. I am sure I can win him over; I just need to play the long game. I do have a sense of us all being part of a large, living experiment during the lockdown. I am not sure if there really is a greater abundance of wildlife this spring, or if largely office bound people like me are just noticing it more as we get to spend a bit more time outdoors. Certainly, the deer and foxes locally seem to be a bit bolder than they were before, so perhaps it is a bit of both. My farmer friends are in a better position than me to answer that one. One of our colleagues has not been able to go out, as they are in the highly vulnerable category. Living in isolation in a small flat, this has incredibly hard for a normally active wildlife enthusiast. But even in these difficult circumstances, I was delighted to hear that they have created their own experiment, studying the feeding habits of blackbirds under the only tree they can clearly see from their flat window. And there are other experiments that will be undertaken. I joined a virtual meeting last week where the topic of bats came up. Recent studies have suggested that road noise may be having a negative effect on some species of bats’ ability to hunt and it was hoped that some further studies, conducted under social distancing rules, could be done during the lockdown to test the theory while the roads are so much quieter than usual. The social distancing measures we are now living under have inadvertently put us in a living experiment that means studies such as this can be conducted in a real-world scenario. I think the great Covid 19 social experiment may change our own behaviour for good too. I for one am certainly looking forward to a few less miles in the car each week and a few more hours enjoying our wildlife with my family.