NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Newbe  (Read 783 times)


  • Joined Jan 2019
« on: January 14, 2019, 03:07:36 pm »
I'm a newbe here. Recently bought a property near Livingston, West Lothian which came with an acre of pasture + another acre-ish of woodland.
Previous owner had a couple of stables and tack room built but never used. He let someone use the field for their horses 24/7/365. So when we acquired it the land was a mess. Not a drop of grass on it, just mud and water logged.
It's now been roughly a year and the grass and plenty of weeds have recovered.
To say it's a bit lumpy and bumpy is an understatement. I've been told it needs rolling but I don't know how to go about getting this done. The nearest farmer wasn't interested in helping so not sure where to go?

I'm looking to just get the field back to a quality grass pasture and maintain it and then have a think what to do with it.
Any advice or help would be much appreciated.
Voss Electric Fence


  • Joined Nov 2015
  • Kernow - some say it's in England !
Re: Newbe
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2019, 06:00:48 pm »
Welcome to the forum PeterB.  Unfortunately can't help from this end of the united (ish) kingdom, but I'm guessing you don't have much (if any) ground working equipment of your own - would that be correct ?

I'm also thinking the neighbour farmer might not actually have suitable equipment for restoring a relatively small bit of pasture.  Whatever:  sorting an acre would not be impossible with a reasonably decent-sized rotavator which, I reckon, would probably be best based on your description.  Chances are that, once rotavated to give a fairly even surface, it will green-up all on its own without re-seeding.

« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 06:05:02 pm by arobwk »


  • Joined Nov 2017
  • Morayshire
Re: Newbe
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2019, 06:37:55 pm »
Welcome to the forum Peter. I can offer no advice for the land but i'm sure someone will be along soon to help you out
I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies. This is me!

Mad Goatwoman of Madeley

  • Joined Sep 2011
  • Telford
Re: Newbe
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2019, 10:26:03 pm »
 :wave: Peter and welcome to TAS from Shropshire. Arobwk's suggestion of rotavating it sounds good to me. It would enable you to use part of it for growing veg if that interests you. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.


  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: Newbe
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2019, 02:29:44 am »
Thanks all for the quick responses and welcomes.

I’ll look in to rotavating it. There’s a good hire place near here. I have a fairly decent ride on mower and thats it. Managed to cut it all back with that and it looks good to the layman (me included).

I was told by the local (nearest) farmer that it just needs rolling but he said it’s too far to bring his gear across. I could hire a roller for my ride on but not sure it would be weighty enough.

Growing veg is an idea. Also thought about a couple of highland cows but need a bit of research before we commit to live stock. I need hassle free for now. We’re considering using it to hold our wedding in the next 12 months. Hence why I want it looking good.


  • Joined Mar 2017
  • Gower
Re: Newbe
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2019, 07:32:23 am »
hello Peter, welcome to BYC, and congratulations on your engagement!


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Newbe
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2019, 10:17:54 am »
Hello Peter and welcome. We have a similar situation here, but in our case the roughness of the ground is due to ants, moles and voles. I can say that heavy rolling it may do more harm than good, as compressing the ground restricts drainage, which is a problem we also have caused by heavy tractors.

We had a patch of weeds about 200m2 where our chicken enclosure is going. These weeds are a complete ground surface covering and they throw up one yellow flower a year- toxic to chickens we discovered. I deep rotorvated it twice, raked all the weeds out then ran a small tiller over the surface before spreading seed. It took well, but we bought a 60Kg garden roller too late and it wasn't anywhere near heavy enough to level the ground because the grass roots held it together- perhaps 200kg would be needed. The second patch was tackled in the same way but was rolled immediately after seeding and should be good enough to bowl on!

If you hire the right rotorvator- one that self drives with counter-rotating tynes- you will possibly do the field in a couple of days. How level you want it after that depends on your intended use, but rolling it lightly immediately after seeding will get it pretty flat, without compressing the subsoil.


  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: Newbe
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2019, 11:05:08 am »
Thanks for the further advice. The weeds are pretty rife across the entire field. I’m no good at identifying them yet. A lot of buttercups, but a whole load of others.

I’ve bought a commercial selective weed killer and a backpack sprayer for early spring spraying. But I’m kinda reluctant to spray chemicals everywhere. But its 3000sq.mtrs so I cant do it by hand.

I’ll look in the rotovator and tiller. Sounds like a plan


  • Joined Aug 2015
  • Portsoy,Aberdeenshire
Re: Newbe
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2019, 02:01:30 pm »
Hi Peter B

There is a machinery ring with an office in Edinburgh  who might be able to help you. My daughter gets her paddock cut by a local farmer at Machinery Ring Rates . I think it is about £25 an hour.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2019, 02:04:08 pm by RoyC »


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Newbe
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2019, 05:00:51 pm »
Hello and welcome  :wave:

An acre of grassland 'near Livingston' sets the alarm bells ringing.  A lot of the land around there is sour and acid, so if yours is like that, and has been trampled thoroughly by horses, then you need to do some investigating before you decide on action. A quick fix now could leave you with drainage problems forever.

Identifying the 'weeds' (wild flowers/plants) is a start, as which plant groups thrive can indicate the soil type.  For example if you have lots of rushes (low growing, like tufts of thick very green grass) then that certainly indicates poorly drained and acid soil.  However, for deeper understanding you really need a book or a couple of websites to explore, and wait until the spring when the plants come up.  Buttercups are not good for some grazers, and they prevent grass growing thickly.  There are advisers out there, on both an agricultural and a gardening scale - you fall somewhere between the two.

Another quick check is to dig a series of holes across your field, maybe 60cms square by the same deep. Have a look at the soil profile to see if there is a 'pan' a little way down - this is a hard layer, easily caused by horses overgrazing, which prevents surface water from draining, and has to be broken up.  Consult a book/website to discover how to work out if your soil is sandy, loamy or clay as again this governs how you can expect your soil to perform.  Look carefully too, and count, the worm population in your sample hole, as earthworms are vital to good aeration and health of your soil.

Rotavating can in fact worsen a hard pan, which tends to form at the level the rotors reach down to, and this can cause a problem even in lovely soil.

I really do recommend learning about your specific ground and what you are doing before diving in and possibly making things worse. 

More bad news - two cows need more than an acre of grazing  :cow: :cow:

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Newbe
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2019, 04:26:53 pm »
I should have said, @PeterB , that not all soil around Livingston is poor, acid and thin.  Apparently, back in the '50s before they started building the new town, the farmland which made up the prospective site, was grade A agricultural land.  In the early '70s when we lived in the first little corner of the new town, the fields which are now built on, were still being cultivated and I can remember thinking what a shame it was that that rich land would be lost to growing.  Since the 50s, the grading of the land was sytematically reduced in the DAFS record so that by the time planning permission was given, the land appeared to be much poorer than it was!  The soil in our pockethandkerchief-sized garden was lovely to work and I grew lots of flowers and salads.  Compared to the heavy glacial clay I grew up on, that soil was wonderful.
This just reinforces my advice to learn about soils, and assess what you have.  A year under lawn for your wedding won't do it any harm at all.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie


  • Joined Jan 2019
Re: Newbe
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2019, 08:55:06 pm »
Thanks for the links Royc for the links. I’ll check them out.
And thanks Fleecewife for the detailed advice. A lot to ponder on.
Do you know of anyone local who would come and look at it?


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Newbe
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2019, 12:43:17 am »
We assessed our own land when we bought it years ago, but I have the advantage of having grown up on a farm, and grown edibles all my life, in a wide range of soils.  However, I used the ways I have suggested to you.  To do the assessment yourself would involve you actually learning something about your land, information to last the rest of your life, and getting hands-on experience of delving in your soil.   There is no need to decide right now, as you need time to do some research, and a few months for the vegetation to grow a bit and become identifiable.  I usually recommend a full year to fully assess and learn about your land, it's soil and condition and your local climate.  I can't think who you could get to come in and do the job for you and anyway it's a poor option.  Maybe someone else can suggest a suitable professional if you really lack the confidence to have a bash yourself.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for - plant a tree

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus - let sleeping dragons lie


  • Joined Feb 2012
  • Somerset
Re: Newbe
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2019, 09:13:24 am »
I agree with the advice to check your soil first - particularly if you are thinking of rotivating. When we first came here we attempted to rotivate in February, ready for spring sowing. We discovered that all our land was heavy clay. The clay collected on the rotivator tines in minutes and it was impossible to carry on. We had to wait for months for the soil to dry out sufficiently. Even so, it would probably have taken a week to do an acre, not just a couple of days.

if your soil is sandy, deep rotivating should work but you do need to dig a couple of holes to check first.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Newbe
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2019, 11:08:01 am »
Round where I live there are small contractors who specialise in pony paddocks such as yours. They have smaller machinery more suited to your field. I'm sure if you look at local ads, facebook etc there will be some round you as well. Better to get someone in who can assess the job and sort it than buy a load of machinery that you may not need, nor ever use again.
Incidentally, all my land is grassland of varying qualities from sand to clay. I keep my cattle out in winter and it gets muddy, rutted and chewed up much like yours sounds. I have never used anything other than a set of harrows to even it out again, then scatter some grass seed and roll it, and the grass grows again as good as new. You've only got an acre so no point in getting too complicated. I would get some grass growing again this spring and see what weeds you get instead of indiscrimantly spraying everything. Not all weeds are bad. Obviously you don't want a load of thistles. But you could be killing a lot of nutritious clover or beneficial plants by just spraying everything.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


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