A WARM Saturday afternoon would usually lead to hundreds of families flocking to the Manor Farm Shop in Catthorpe to pick a punnet of strawberries.
But this year they’re lucky to get a dozen visitors.
Matthew Grindal runs the farm with his family. He said: “My father has farmed here for 40 years and he has never known a summer as wet as this.
“There will always be a harvest and every year brings its challenges, it’s just that this year is a particularly tricky one.”
Perhaps even Matthew’s grandfather would struggle to remember a summer as wet as this one after a June which turned out to be the wettest since 1910 and July is on track for a similar record.
Cars can’t park on the pick-your-own car park because the ground would be churned up and produce has to be transported by a trailer on a bicycle rather than by van.
Matthew said: “We’re still getting our regulars coming to stock up for preserving and jam-making but it’s people coming for a sunny day out we need more of.
“We’re trying to get more out of our crop too - our girls in the kitchen are making more pies and jams for the shop.
“To be honest I think they’ll be sick of the sight of strawberries by the time the season is over!”
Things don’t look like they will get better anytime soon for Manor Farm as the stretch of the River Avon that runs through Matthew’s fields has just begun to burst its banks.
Although Matthew is lucky that many of his rows of strawberry plants are under cover the increased moisture means that much of the produce is slower to ripen and it creates a better climate for mould to develop.
Wheat needs a sustained dry period to ripen and swampy conditions in the fields make it difficult for a combine harvester to go to work.
Matthew said: “While we will be OK here and this season will finish, many people and consumers won’t be hit until 18 months down the line when there is less suppliers to meet demand which then puts more pressure on imports.
“We had plans for development to our shop and reinvestments in machinery which we will have to shelve until next year when it would be more viable.”
The good news is that the weather is expected to improve next week - but for how long is impossible to tell.
One thing is for certain, however - few will be checking the forecasts quite as avidly as Matthew.