I have only just found your wonderful website, although I have followed your advice on no-dig techniques for a while.
This year I am going to be tackling a new veg garden on what, for the last 15 years, has been a bull paddock.
The soil is very slow draining clay and, as you can imagine, has an incredibly hard pan about six to eight inches down where the bulls hooves sink in the wet.
Just to add to the fun it is shaded on the east side by a fully mature oak tree ( leafmould, 🙂 ).
The area has been mown for a season as I didn’t have time to start it properly last year so the aim is to chop off the top layer with a turfing iron, then lay 4 inches of old manure and another 1 inch of green compost.
Not sure of there being any merit in removing the turf, if you can collect cardboard(easy from your local stores, especially retailers of fridges, w/machines-( huge thick cartons!), just open out the cartons, overlap by 20 cms, keeping the edges strait along any paths and cover with 10cm rotted manure of compost or even top soil, then compost topping. Plant strait away, with transplants grown in modules. Try not to leave any places with underlying vegetation in the light. If you can leave your cardboard out in a shower or two, it will soften and hug the ground contour, giving easy access to worms and micro organisms from your turf layer. Its probably only that 2-3cm that contains the lifeforms of your trampled ground.
I am tempted to use cardboard and save myself the work but I think there may be problems with slugs if I do.
The manure is pretty much worm composted so it won’t be too lumpy but there are so many slugs round here they even go for the newspaper in the chicken house.
Tristan I wonder how dense is the pan you mention, because bulls are heavy animals for sure. Possibly it justifies a forking, not that I want to encourage that, only in exceptional circumstances.
If slugs are as bad as you say, you could try skimming off the turf and then composting over, to avoid using cardboard, and in order to have first-year crops of slug-sensitive vegetables.
Maybe try half the area like that and the other half with cardboard, also you could grow leeks etc in that part.