Barton-le-Willows, North Yorkshire: Wind and rain have all but destroyed the harvest, but near the crops is a mass of wildflowers, with seeds peppering the soil

A borrowed yellow combine lurks behind a hedge, where it was left at 10 o’clock last night. My friend Richard Hudson, the farmer, had worked 17 hours on his birthday. “We were determined to keep going because we knew the weather was coming,” he says. “But eventually the machines couldn’t cope. I mean, look at it.” Barley stems, toppled every which way by wind last week, have been laid lower still by hammering rain.

Richard plants spring crops because it’s better for the environment and his cash flow, he tells me. “They need lower inputs, we can drill direct so we don’t have to plough, and we can leave winter stubble – it suits this land, and the skylarks especially. But it’s a risk.”

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