Thursday, June 17, 2010
For hundreds of years the farms around my village were worked the same way: rotating cattle and crops on the fields. The cattle provided a natural fertilizer which was then ploughed in to feed the next crop which might be barley, oats, wheat or potatoes. But costs and quotas have brought massive changes. The prize-winning dairy herd I used to watch from my office window has long gone. The farmer died and now his widow has little choice but to lease the fields to contractors who arrive in force with their enormous machines. This year four adjoining fields were ploughed, harrowed, spread with artificial fertilizer and planted with potatoes all within a week. Since the green shoots first appeared through the soil they have been sprayed four times: twice with selective weed killer and twice with something else which, because they are main crop, may be a blight retardant. And yet this same industrial-type farming can be beautiful. On the other side of the village another farm covers both sides of a headland. Six huge fields on the south-facing hillside have been planted with linseed which is just coming into bloom. From a distance the fields look like a huge lake. It's stunningly beautiful. And because the hedges have been allowed to grow wild there are masses of bees and other insects busily pollinating the flowers and providing food for all the young fledgelings.
The path in the picture is hundreds of years old and was once the main way for animals and people between the farm at the top of the hill and the mill quay at the head of the creek in the village. People also used this path to walk up past the farm and down the other side to the rowing-boat ferry that would take them across the river to Point and Feock from where they would walk to Truro. I love the sense of continuity that comes from living in a place where past and present are so closely entwined.
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Oh, Jane, I LOVE the photo of that lane!
And yes, the continuity of the countryside is very comforting. Also a nice source of background and conflict for a writer... :)
Thanks, Jan. I love that lane too. It's so old that the pasage of feet and animals has worn it deeper than the fields on either side. There are also badger, fox and rabbit holes in the hedges. And with the trees meeting overhead it has a cathedral-like feeling.
Lovely post, Jane, and I do agree about the linseed, the blue looks lovely. Progress can be bittersweet. Here on the Pennines there is little chance of contractors taking over too much because the hills aren't suitable for large machinery. Having said that, the sheep we take for granted now weren't always so abundant. Records show that the hill farmers used to grow some crops as well. I sometimes wonder if we would recognise the countryside if we could see it as it was 200 years ago.
The lane has gone too deep down...it must be pretty old to go that down by walks. I like the circular view of trees at distant giving it an enigmatic feeling...I love greens and farms and they make you feel so fresh!
Thanks Melinda, and AID, for your comments.
Melinda, my father was born in Yorkshire and I love the rocky grandeur of the Pennines. We may farm the land with crops and animals but left to its own devices nature quickly takes over again. Down in the western part of Cornwall farmers on moorland fight a constant battle against gorse and heather and old stone hedges mark out C18th fields that seem tiny compared to modern Cornish farms. As for the great prairie fields of Wiltshire...awesome!
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