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About 13 days ago, amidst a bout of unseasonably warm weather, the broad beans we sowed last September emerged from the fenland peat down on our Yaxley fields. For their first days out of their subterranean underworld they must have been delighted, flourishing in plenty of unexpected warmth and sunshine. Then last Thursday it all changed. The fens were ravaged by eighty miles per hour winds sweeping in from the north east, ripping off roofs and flipping lorries the length and breadth of the country. For our beans it must have been a bit of a rude awakening. Having successfully battled through their first natural challenge it has only been 24 hours of respite and they are under the cosh again.

This morning the temperatures have plummeted to minus 6 and the fen is covered in an inch of snow. Forecasters tell us that we can expect another three or four days of sub zero temperatures before better weather starts moving northwards from the continent to ease the conditions. I haven