One of the priorities for this year was to improve our roads so they required zero maintenance.
Traditional farm roads are rutted with pot holes that get worse in wet weather and generally place a strain on farm machinery and vehicles. Because of the number of kilometres covered every year in attending to the demands of the farming calendar , we believe that we if we can provide really excellent roads which do not suffer any damage, this would be a good return on the investment.
Our road building programme uses chalk as a base. We then place a layer of Type One stone over the chalk and then monitor closely the development of the road. Weak areas are repaired but the overall objective is to get the road slightly above the surrounding ground level through which it runs. This means the drainage is improved. Any low area on any road will rapidly deteriorate.
We have another technique up our sleeves. If we have excess woodchips, we find that by spreading them on our roads it helps to bind the surface, make it softer to ride on, and provides the all-important organic matter that allows the grass to grow along the sides and down the middle. We also top dress our roads with separated dairy muck at least once a year to achieve the same objective. What we want to produce is a road that is alive with plants, insects and earthworms and it is only the vehicle wheels which define where the road is. The photograph below provides an excellent example of that.
Because Lower Pertwood Farm is very hilly so we go to special lengths to make sure that our very steep roads like the one up along the edge of Hill Down, are impervious to rain damage. We do this by creating gentle “speedbumps” about every 10m with proper exit drains to allow the water to leave the road. The water is unable to build up much velocity in such a short distance and therefore there is no wash away effect. Hill Down was done like this last year, and, although we have had a lot of wet weather since, it is 100% intact with no damage whatsoever. These “speedbumps” are quite gentle but they are sufficient to make sure that the water changes direction and leaves the road when necessary. It is also quite a good idea to put a slight camber in the road because this helps the water to drain off. Obviously the grass verges and the strong grass down the middle of the road absorbs a considerable amount of the rainfall that falls on the road or drains onto the road in adjacent areas.
We believe that we will shortly have roads which are good forever and which effectively are managed for us by nature.