Whilst we knit/hook, shall we indulge in a little ancient history?
So on a scale from ‘bewildered’ to ‘undisputed world authority’, how au fait are you with the concept of ridge and furrow? I have to ask, because I tend to assume that if even I know something, then it really must be painfully obvious to everyone else.
Long car journeys of my childhood often involved spotting examples of ridge and furrow in fields beside the motorway: it’s pretty distinctive once you know what you’re looking for. Never let it be said that we didn’t know how to rock a damned fine time chez Family Twisted.
A quick explanation: here in the UK and other parts of Northern Europe, medieval peasants ploughed and sowed the land in long strips with troughs in between, whilst their feudal overlords sat smug in moated castles, counting their gold. This system of farming was proper legit, innit, from very roughly 1500 years ago until about 400 years ago. That’s a lot of years; enough for the peasants’ backbreaking toil to leave clear scars on the landscape that are still visible today. Here’s some subtle remnants of ridge and furrow that I spotted recently near Swindon:-
I’ve written before about how much I love the marks that ancient history has left on our local landscape (eg here and here). And I can’t help but feel sad when a little more of that heritage is destroyed, even though keeping everything the same would mean that we’d still use scrawny oxen to haul ploughs across the earth, and popping out to Tescos would involve trudging through dense forest and possibly being devoured by wolves along the way. So imagine my horror when I came across an (admittedly uncertain in the gloaming) example of ridge and furrow that was to be destroyed right in our very village.
It was whilst I was out for a run, and therefore possibly of unsound judgement. As it began to get dark, I ran up to the allotment to check on the progress of our onions and broad beans and raspberry canes. (Not much progress: it’s too cold to bother growing.) I spotted these lovely hellebores flowering on our plot, though:-
Close to the allotment (far too close), is a field that was hitherto left in peace behind a dense hedge. But no more. Because clearly what we need round here is a million new-build homes to turn our (mostly) tranquil old village into a sprawling megalopolis. And I am prone to neither gross exaggeration nor hypocritical nimbyism…
So ahead of the construction of eleventy squillion homes, they’ve ripped out the hedge around the field. This was the first time I’d had a proper view of what lay behind. It was difficult to tell in the rapidly dimming light (and this photo in no way even begins to do it justice), but I thought I could maybe see a hint of ridge and furrow, about to be ripped away. Those distinctive horizontal lines: can you see them?
Sigh. And when I came back a few days later, it was already a muddy mess, as though a bunch of excavators had scribbled all over the field.
Farewell, medieval peasants. I’ll miss you, even though I only just noticed that you were there.