Monday, 11 July 2016

Field Barns.

Cro suggested last week that perhaps I could do a post on field barns in the Yorkshire Dales.

Yesterday we went up the dale (Wensleydale) for Sunday lunch and I took my camera, intending to persuade the farmer to stop at one or two barns for me to take a few photographs.   No two barns are alike on the outside, although they are more or less the same inside.

Unfortunately there was a massive time trial cycle race using the road through the dale at the same time, so there was quite enough disruption to the traffic without us causing more.

So this lunchtime we took Tess for a walk as far as one of our field barns and I thought this one would have to do to explain the principle.

This barn stands in the corner of one of our fields.  The wall alongside used to have a corrugated shed fixed to it and was used as a hay store.  This blew down years ago and was never replaced.

We tried to get planning consent to  convert it into a bungalow for the farmer and me in our retirement, but it was not allowed unless we  agreed to just one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom, all opening off one room.  So now it falls into a sad state of disrepair.

These barns date back to the days when milking was done by hand.   This particular barn housed six cows in the winter - two to each stall - and they would be chained up all day.   Twice a day they would be let out to drink.   There is a well in one corner of the field.   If it ran dry (which it did on occasions) then the cows would be driven down to the beck, two fields away, and then driven back.
Twice a day - early morning and early evening (remember there was no electricity)- somebody would walk across the field, milking stool on their back, bucket in hand and hand milk all six cows.

The farmer's father, born in 1900, did this for years from his early teens - it was the accepted way of doing things before the advent of the tractor for transport and the automatic milking machine.   Often he would milk before he went to school in a morning.  (no wonder many of these farm boys fell asleep during lessons).

If you look in the right hand back corner of the picture you will see that there is an open door.   The 'corridor' at the back of the wooden stalls was where the feed - usually hay in those days - was kept and it would be brought to that door by horse and cart and unloaded into the passage.

Nowadays, as you can see from the mess everywhere, it is unused - apart from a barn owl who uses it as a roost every night (hence the owl pellets - see the one the farmer is holding).

There are two blackbirds' nests along the beams in the roof; and one Sunday a few years ago, when I looked in as I walked past with my dog, I saw what I thought was a dead body on the floor in one of the stalls.   I ran and fetched the farmer and we returned to the barn to find that it was a drunk who had been taking a short cut across the footpath from the pub and just couldn't keep awake any longer!

22 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

What a valuable old piece of farmland that barn is, so much history. Is there nothing that you can utilise it for that won't need planning permission, seems a real shame to see such history gradually fall apart. A Barn Owl nest box would be an ideal thing in there if nothing else, Barn Owls could do much better if people supplied nest boxes, we have two old tea chests in the reserve barn that have been used for around 30 years.

donna baker said...

I'd be digging for gold coins with a metal finder. Looks like a good field and place to do so. I hear there are caches all over Britain. It is pretty and was hard work. Can you imagine people working that hard today?

Derek Faulkner said...

Interesting history of the barn, plenty of blog stuff there as you tell us all about the history of the farm, I'd love to read it.

angryparsnip said...

What a shame the council would not let you build. That would have been the best new/old home ever.
With the need for housing, no stairs is really this is a silly rejected.
It is a beautiful barn.
I would love to fix it up enough to save it and use it for what Derek said. Plus a lovely place to sit and enjoy the day.

cheers, parsnip
I posted a video of thehamish on Saturday be sure to check out the movie star.

Heather said...

A shame you couldn't get planning permission. It would make a lovely quiet holiday home. So relieved that your dead body woke up in the morning and that the barn is inhabited by owls and blackbirds. It's probably better that they have taken up residence than holiday makers.

Gwil W said...

Your story about the man who was dead drunk in the barn reminded me of that wonderful film shot in Downham where escaped convict Alan Bates wakes up in a barn to find some children staring at him and exclaims: Jesus Christ! (Whistle Down the Wind). Different county, but nice views of Pendleton Hill which Queen Mary standing on the steps of the parish church said was the finest view in England. But I expect she said that in other places too :)

Gwil W said...

Pendle Hill

Sheila said...

Let us not forget that you and the Famer met for the first time in a barn. Wasn't
it you two and a bull?

Rachel said...

We had a barn by the trunk road to London. Tramps would sleep overnight there in the straw.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Surprised you don't have swallows making a home in there!

Terry and Linda said...

What an interesting post this is. To bad you couldn't make it into a bungalow. I enjoyed reading what Shelia wrote.

Linda

Frances said...

Weaver, thank you so very much for this post. Your writing and the photographs really have provided me a good idea of then and now. I am sorry that demands of official planning committees have kept you all from actually being able to help this building with all its history from beginning a slide into that history.

xo

English Rider said...

We rennovated such a barn in the French countryside. The first time I saw it, there were twelve cows in the lower level and we've kept some of the original hay ricks, much like those in your photo. My husband herded cows there for a couple of summers in his youth. The man from whom we bought the barn was deputy Mayor of the commune. He facilitated our permits, as you can imagine.

Hildred said...

Pat, we finally sold our last cow when our youngest daughter rebelled about milking before school!!!! I was in sympathy with her but not prepared at that stage of the game to take her place ;)

Cro Magnon said...

Thanks for that Weave; I hadn't realised that they were used for milking. I remember seeing a wide-angle view of fields, and the barns were dotted all over. Barns here are always by the house.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Great story - and what a shame you couldn't fix up the barn into a cottage, such a waste to have to let it go to ruin. Loved the story of the drunk fellow.

Librarian said...

Dear me, what a shock it must have been to come across a "dead body" in your old barn! I am glad he wasn't really dead.
Were the cows chained up because otherwise they would have escaped from the barn in winter? Somehow I feel a bit sorry for them.
It's a shame you didn't get permission to convert the barn the way you wanted to. It does not seem fair - not that you were planning on turning it into a huge ugly block of flats or something!

thelma said...

Fascinating history Pat, and a shame you could not have turned the barn into a home, but I expect you would have had to use the exact floor space of the barn, and height of course. Planning permission is there for a reason I suppose.
I remember hand milking on a farm in Wales, the churns put outside on a stone ledge, romantic but hard work for everyone. Rather like the Swiss idea of keeping your cows on the ground floor of your house...

Derek Faulkner said...

There is a two-storey old farm cottage, called Rose Cottage, on the marshes near me that had an open cattle byre at ground level and living quarters on the upper level. The idea being that the heat generated by the cattle would rise and warm the people living above. They seem to have forgotten to mention that if the heat can rise then so can the smell. No one lives in the top half now except a nesting Barn Owl,but the bottom half is still used as a cattle shelter.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Interesting...but what is a "fielf" barn? (See title). Naughty Mrs Weaver!

Jenny said...

The patchwork of dry stone walls and a barn in the corner is one of the most beautiful sights in Yorkshire, lifts my heart every time.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sheila - fancy you remembering that. The barn we both sheltered in from a heavy downpour was a much larger barn than this and yes, cattle (including a bull) were housed in there as it was winter. We did already know one another, so it wasn't our first meeting but I think it was the first time that we both felt 'electricity' between us.

Thanks everyone for stopping by.