Waterlogged countryside leaves farmers trapped in a vicious cycle - Sarah Todd

Topsy-turvy is a turn of phrase we don’t hear very often but it seems to sum up an awful lot going on in the world at the moment.

There is no doubt farmers could think of a few more choice words about the wet weather.

Thing is, of course, they have been moaning about the weather since Adam was a lad and will continue to do so until the cows come home, so it’s hard for the public to grasp what is so terrible about current climate conditions.

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Put simply, a fair percentage of crops did not get sown in the autumn because of the biblical amounts of rainfall. The hope was some later varieties could be planted this spring, but the countryside remains waterlogged, making this catch-up impossible.

A photo issued by National Trust of submerged trees following Storm Babet in October. PIC: National Trust/PA WireA photo issued by National Trust of submerged trees following Storm Babet in October. PIC: National Trust/PA Wire
A photo issued by National Trust of submerged trees following Storm Babet in October. PIC: National Trust/PA Wire

For livestock farmers animals housed over winter should have started to be turned out to pasture by now. But their fields would become mudbaths in minutes, ruining the grass supply for later in the year, so inside many stay. Eating the food that in a normal year would be kept in reserve. It’s a vicious cycle, especially with the traditional springtime lambing and calving going on.

Recently, a farmer was interviewed to help promote a new wellbeing movement for the agricultural community north of the border called Farmstrong Scotland.

He recalled how his late father, Ted, never really recovered from the wet harvest of 1985 and the “seemingly endless slog against the weather to get the crops in”.

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That harvest, which saw all their wheat and barley flattened by the rain, cast a cloud over the mental health of this farmer - who was normally the life and soul of any party - for the rest of his life. Thankfully, the farming industry is now a lot more switched on about mental health, but the tale of Ted and that wet harvest has been hard to shake off as the rain has kept falling. Especially given the latest figures from the Met Office, which shows England saw the highest level of rainfall over any 18-month period since recording data began back in 1836.

In many ways, farming is a more isolated job than it was back in Ted’s day. Back then, there were workers on the farm and neighbours in the same boat; whereas mechanical advancements mean nowadays many spend most days by themselves.

In the wider world, new figures have shown one in 20 patients are currently being forced to wait at least four weeks for a GP appointment. In some parts of the country, such as the Vale of York, month-long waits are reported to have gone up by as much as 80 per cent.

The number of consultations taking place after at least a fortnight’s wait is up by 22 per cent, bringing to mind a dictionary definition of topsy-turvy; that of “utter confusion or disorder”.

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Staying on a medical theme, we have all seen news reports of desperate patients queuing from 4am to try and register for an NHS dentist.

It was jaw-dropping to read that while many of these practices have no available appointments for dentistry work, they fit fee-paying customers in for the likes of Botox and lip fillers. Now, if that’s not topsy-turvy what is?

Not normally drawn in by marketing campaigns, there was an advert in one of the weekend newspapers from the skincare brand Dove that caught the eye.

It featured photographs of two little girls. One, taken in 2010, showed a family snap of a ten-year-old girl doing a thumb’s up wearing a cowboy hat and then another - presumably a selfie on social media - of a girl the same age in 2024 knowingly looking in a mirror applying some cream or other to her face.

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Underneath, the slogan When did 10 stop looking like 10? seemed to sum up the - yes, you’ve guessed - topsy-turvy world today’s girls are growing up in.

Apparently, many are feeling under pressure to start using anti-aging skincare products before they have even grown up - all adding to “premature appearance anxiety”.

In figures that hark back to the dentistry diversifications, one in three young girls (aged 10 to 17 years old) are expected to have cosmetic work or plastic surgery to alter their appearance as they age.

They are also worrying themselves about needing to use retinol and other anti-aging skincare ingredients before they are even teenagers.

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Just the other week a children’s makeup brand pitched for money on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den and this old misery guts was in front of the television willing Peter Jones and the team not to invest. Perhaps it’s just me, but it all seems upside down (another dictionary definition of topsy-turvy).

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