Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The Past is always with us.

Here the snow is lurking about and the temperature is just above freezing. Sleet/snow showers keep falling spasmodically. The sky is grey and, frankly, it is bitter out there. On my way up to my study I looked out of the landing window. The photograph above is what is saw.

Not very exciting, is it? I am sure that looking at it you can almost feel the bitter raw cold. But there is something in the photograph which does make it more interesting.

Do you see how the field opposite the farm house is beginning to be striped. Thin trails of grass are showing through in straight lines down the field and in between the snow still lies deep. This is clear evidence of medieval farming methods - the rig and furrow system.

Those old medieval farmers were clever and knew how to get the most surface area from their land, so they made a series of ridges with furrows in between, and those pastures which are rarely, if ever, ploughed, have retained that evidence.

Similarly, on our neighbours farm higher up the hill, there is evidence of terracing and Anglo-Saxon lynchets - other methods of making the most of the surface area. All these things show up at sunrise and sunset, when the sun is low in the sky and the shadows are long. But today, in the slowly thawing snow, they advertise their presence and for me serve to emphasise that we don't own the land, it is merely ours for our lifetime - then we can pass it on to others. And luckily, they too will find evidence of our farming methods in hundreds of years to come.

And I know one thing for sure - those old farmers had it hard. This kind of weather would still see them toiling with their stock, feeding, milk, watering, cleaning out - all without the benefit of central heating, constant hot water, electricity.........I could go on. But no, I'll continue up to my study, sit by the hot radiator with my little spotlight and do a bit of embroidery. But at lease it has made me think on my way upstairs. The past is always with us - but sometimes we forget about it and the snow has been a timely reminder. Keep warm.


steven said...

hello weaver - england's landscape is a treasure trove of evidence of what has gone before. even under snow there are stories being told! have a lovely warm evening by the hearth! steven

Cindee said...

Thank You for the brief history lesson. I love the secrets that the earth holds.

Pam said...

Beautiful and interesting post Weaver. As archeological excavation programs from England are my favourites on t.v., I am fascinated and astounded with what lies under the surface of your fascinating country!.

Penny said...

Thank you for the explanations of the lines, as a farmers wife I saw them and wondered at the difference in the furrow widths.
We are heading for very hot today and tomorrow, I prefer mild temperatures. sigh.

Leenie said...

Glad you explained the rows in the fields. What history must have passed over your part of the world! Ridges in fields around here just mean the farmer has dug furrows for the flow of irrigation water. Not nearly so interesting.

Elisabeth said...

Yes Weaver, the past is always with it and hopefully we can learn from it.

Here in Australia there are methods adopted from England that we also have to 'unlearn'. They are not suitable for this land. In many areas there are serious problems with erosion, salination and the like. Our ancestors tried to apply techniques that applied elsewhere and ignored the indigenous people's ways.

Now we have to restore the balance and it's hard.

I love to look at your landscapes though because the same does not apply to you there, though climate change is causing us all the rethink our ways of living.

Our summers appear to be getting hotter and it sounds as though your winters are more severe. It's always hard to know the extent of this but at least we can be aware of it.

Cloudia said...

An eloquent view!

Aloha, Sister

Comfort Spiral

dinesh chandra said...

I read about the old type of farming, I live my childhood when i am reading the post, because I remember my home town In Uttranchal A Hill State, We also adpot till date the same methold of farming.
The Past is always with us I M agree with you because the past make our present and future good.


Dinesh Chandra

Anonymous said...

And the snow covering up nearly all evidence of contemporary living renders the landscape timeless too. All of those monochrome photographs of how our countryside once was and can be no more suddenly move into three-dimensional reality!

Just outside Hitchin, our nearest town, the fields are clearly terraced, presumably from pre-Roman times. Plans are afoot to build houses across them. And then they'll finally be lost to history - and, indeed, to the present.

Golden West said...

It's remarkable what our ancestors accomplished with what they had to work with, so primitive by today's standards.

It won't be so many days until your view out the window is green again!

Heather said...

Fascinating Weaver - I have often wondered, as we drive around our area, what caused the shapes of the hills and fields. Are they ancient manmade earthworks or just a natural feature. I have been enjoying the TV series 'Victorian Farm' and from it have had several reminders from my own childhood of things my grandmother did. She was born in 1879 so would have used many Victorian methods in her housekeeping, especially during the war years when everything was in short supply. Living history indeed. It is very hard not to take things for granted these days.

Bovey Belle said...

We spotted some on the way back from Sheffield recently, just outside Uttoxeter I think. I can remember having lectures on this at Uni and I never fail to think of the Medieval peasantry when I see it - you hve to think of them on raw days like these too . . . best place is by the fire with your embroidery, and indeed, I think I shall join you!

jeannette stgermain said...

That's the perfect black and white pic, Weaver! It's good to be thankful for our modern amenities:) Have a great New Year!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your reactions to this are very interesting, and well worth a read through.
Elizabeth's comments are very interesting. I am sure it has happened in all places where the indigenous population was ousted by "pioneers" - people thought they knew better, but had to relearn.
Sad to read of houses being built on land and covering up these ancient signs of farming - as Dick says in his comment.
Thank you for them all.

BT said...

How right you are Weaver. Jim is keen on archeology and always points out those sort of things. I find it fascinating. I used to think of the farmers in Derbyshire when it was so bitter cold there up on the hills. It must have been so terribly hard for them.