Getting rid of the rushes

We bought this piece of land 5 years ago from an 80 year old farmer who had just let it lie fallow, so it was a bit of a wilderness, hip high in rushes, bramble and gorse. The farmer told us they used to make great hay off it. It was hard to imagine. I remember the first day my husband and I went up to see it. Trying to walk through it was an expedition. The prospect of having to clear it was daunting. There was a lot that we liked. Beautiful views. A bubbling stream running along the north western perimeter. Peace and quiet.

 We were standing at the edge of one of the fields, thinking about it. I said to my husband that it would be a great place for horses. As I said it, a solitary horse appeared from between the trees and walked towards us. I took it as a sign.

This is the horse that told me I had found the right place.

We went back to the old farmer and bought the land. Since then, we have put in a lot of time and effort to improve it. The rushes were well established and hard to get rid off. There are all sorts of chemicals you can use to kill rushes, but I don’t like the idea of spraying poison on land that my horses live on. Apart from that, those chemicals kill everything except grass and because the land had not been used for more than 20 years, the soil hasn’t been spoiled by artificial fertilizers. It shows. Our fields may not be as verdant as some of the pasture in the area, but we have an abundance of orchids flowering in May and June and there is a wonderful variety of wild herbs in the fields and hedgerows that the horses love to browse. I don’t want to lose that, so the only way to weaken and reduce established rushes is to keep cutting them. The horses helpfully eat the tops of young rushes, so in spite of a couple of very wet years, the land is improving all the time.


Here is Minnie, happily browsing in the hedgerow.

Last week, we had a man with a digger up to do a bit of work around the place. Some areas were completely impenetrable with masses of bramble and gorse and as neither horse nor tractor could go in, it was spreading. It’s amazing what a digger can do in a day. All the headlands are cleared and we must have gained about two acres of ground. I’ve been busy reseeding these areas and fencing them off to keep the horses out.


Here is one of the cleared and reseeded headlands. Next year there should be lovely grazing here. Maybe we will even be able to make our own hay by then.


4 thoughts on “Getting rid of the rushes

  1. That’s great work, but when the horses only eat the top of the rushes they will grow back(as good as horses are for that job)

  2. Yes, those rushes keep growing back, and since I wrote this we’ve had the two wettest summers in living memory, so even good fields in the area have rushes growing there now. Although my land used to be hay fields 30 years ago, I never managed to get a crop of hay yet and unless the climate improves it’s not looking good!

  3. Hmm!! I currently live in England (East Anglia the driest part) and I’d never even seen a rush until I was in Northern Ireland last week looking at properties, and they worried the life out of me. We are trying to move to Fermanagh/Tyrone because we want to improve the quality of life for ourselves and our two horses.
    So!! it’s good too know that something can be done about them, it’d be great if I could have a point of reference maybe someone who might be able to give advice if indeed we do end up in Ireland.

    Dermot Matthews

    • Hi Dermot,

      Rushes can be managed, and it is not all bad: generally it means the land hasn’t been fertilised for a long time, and that is much better for horses. A friend of mine used to have an old, laminitic pony who used to come here for the summer and never had any sign of laminitis, even though she was turned out here 24/7. Green fields look nicer, but they bring their own problems and although I certainly wish our land was a lot drier, I am happy that at least my grazing is safe and that I don’t have to restrict turn out.

      Good luck with property hunting in Ireland, and of course if you find anything nice with lots of rushes on it I’d be happy to help with any advice I can give.


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