water as a hindrance
Depending on the amount of water on your property, and where it
is situated, water can be viewed as an asset or a hindrance.
Water is an asset if it falls nicely and regularly on your growing crops:
that depends on where you live. Water is an asset if it is contained
in well defined areas such as ponds and streams. If
the streams are strong enough to power an electricity-producing
device, so much the better. Large
expanses of water can also be classed as assets if you intend to
farm fish, or to rent out duck-shooting, or fishing.
There are several firms of advisors to consult about use of your water - some of the
large estate agents have leisure specialists.
If the water is contained in
a heavy waterlogged soil, it is a hindrance.
The way to drain land depends firstly on its location and slope.
If your land is on a good slope, it may simply be a case of clearing
out old ditches or digging new ones. Dropping ditches by an extra
foot in length can sometimes have a dramatic effect on the land;
as can providing a proper exit for the ditches. Many ditches do not
lead into sufficiently deep removal areas so that water stands in the
ditches instead of being led away. The only reason to have permanent
water in a ditch is if you intend to irrigate the land from
it. If you are trying to drain the land, make sure that the ditch
empties. You may have to consider mechanical drainage. There are
various grants available on some land for this and it is worth checking
whether your land would qualify.
Stock can also cause land to become waterlogged. A field that has naturally poor drainage turns
into a mud-bath when stocked with cattle or, even more, shod
horses. Horses are almost always bad for land. They do not
graze efficiently and tend to poach favourite areas. Even sheep
have to be kept off wet land in the winter. Over the long term it is
worth building up the humus level of your soil and letting
earthworms help you to aerate it.
All the cures for waterlogged
soils are time-consuming. In desperation you could always cover it
with concrete. There is one area in the West Country where many
small farms have unbelievably large areas of concrete. It was put
there by a succession of farmers who moved there because the land
was cheap. They soon found out why: it was wet and the local
farmers had the land correctly valued.
Running water can be channelled into a gully to create a
race that can then be used to generate electricity; most romantically
by a water-wheel churning away.
This could provide you with enough electricity for most of
your needs; perhaps supplemented with solar power.
Less romantically, any conglomeration
of movable pieces can turn things. Many Heath-
Robinson devices produce power from water. If someone got
down to refining one of these devices, there might be a good sale
for them in suitable areas. Moving water can also be used to fill ponds to farm fish.
Essential for farming high oxygen
consumers such as trout are fast-moving water and plenty of food.
Possibly more exciting still, you may be able to
bottle your water and sell it as spring water. This requires all sorts
of licences and permission; not surprising: after all, when what
you think of as a spring may actually be fed from your neighbour's
That is a bit of an exaggeration probably but
not impossible! There has been a case of a health inspector
quite happily doing his job and following the supplier of some
bottled water bought in a supermarket back to its source. Although
the product was beautifully bottled and labelled, he discovered. to
everyone's horror. that the owner of the spring had been merrily
putting it into bottles without any licence, or
knowing its source.
Close to centres of high population, one of the most valuable
stretches of water you can own is a fishable pond.
are the largest group of sportsmen in Britain. They sit out, sometimes
all night, in pouring rain around water that
would otherwise yield no income whatever to its owner. This
activity has to be controlled or all the locals will happily
fish for nothing while your visiting, paying fishermen complain
about overcrowding. Often it is easiest to let your fishing to
a group. Many companies have angling
clubs. Although your income may be reduced, it will be they,
instead of you, who have to worry about the water
being fished by non-payers.
Shooting wildfowl is often best approached on the same basis.
Here those you are allowing onto your land may be dangerous. If
they do not hit what they are aiming at, they may hit something
else and it is worth checking out references, or at least making
sure that they can hit the proverbial barn door. You may be
advised to watch this from a distance through binoculars!
you do allow access to your land then your responsibilities to keep
various dangerous places, such as mine-shafts, well guarded are
increased. A written sign is not enough: children and others might
not read. Even if the shaft does not belong to you, and many
are in separate ownership from the land, it is still up to you to
make the area reasonably safe.
Especially large stretches of water can suit a variety of pastimes:
fishing, water-skiing and so on. The problem is generally to
keep conflicting interests apart and to ease access to the
water. Again it is easiest to run the activities as groups but you may then exclude
the very people who would put the asset to best use.
If your problem is that you do not have enough water, your aim
must be to conserve every single drop that falls on your property.
For a start, water butts at the bottom of drainpipes can
collect considerable quantities. Large areas of roof are excellent
catchment areas. Rain butts can be put at the end of every building,
shed or greenhouse. We have several old galvanised water-
carriers that push along on wheels. Although our problem is often
too much water, we find them invaluable in the summer.
Really large water storage systems need to be well protected from wandering
children - to protect the children. Also from passing
geese and other pollutants - to protect the water. Although
the ecology of a natural pond copes happily with the droppings of
a few water-birds, an unmanaged water-tank does not. Very
quickly the most unpleasant bugs start to develop in its depths.