June 2009 - Posts
It was said by the old men that the water should "trot" onto the fields, and "gallop" off.
On our low lying meadows there is still evidence of the very old style of management the "bedwork or floated water meadows" , where channels carry water onto the fields from the stream. At the upstream end a sluice was built with simple grooves in the brickwork where balks of timber could be slotted in to hold the stream to a suitable hydrostatic head where by it was diverted along carrier channels around the edge of the meadow to be flooded, some times these would be along the top of formed humps to allow the water to reach the next fields. The levels as you can imagine are very critical, it was said by the old men that the water should "trot" onto the fields, and "gallop" off.
Standing water was not acceptable as it would kill the grass by starving the ground of oxygen, the running water carried nutrients in the silt and oxygen and other trace element that the meadows would otherwise not get. In the winter the flooding kept the frost out of the ground and the grass would start growing a lot earlier than non flooded fields. This would go on for a few weeks until spring when grass growth had started.
The main carriers tapered in there length with smaller carriers branching off towards the centre of the field again tapering off to nothing. Drainage channels were intersected (as with clasped hands) to carry the water back to the stream at the lower end of the system.
It can be seen in places where the carrier ditches were viaducted over some drainage channels and where when the main railway line was built around 1875, brick culverts were built to allow water to continue its route round to meadows up to half a mile of more from where it left the river.
In the village we have a Millennium Walk that follows the Millian Brook down from where the road fords it, to an area of grass, a picnic area, here the brook is fast flowing and stepping stone have been positioned to allow walkers to cross. Lower down where it is in a deep channel there is also a new footbridge.
Between the ford at the up stream end, and the foot bridge at the down stream end is a four acre meadow that has a small "bedworks" flooding system which the committee is exploring the possibility of bringing it back into use.
The brickwork cheeks of the old sluice have all but gone and would have to be rebuilt, and the main carrier channel that runs round three sides of the meadow have been filled in, but most of the branch carrier channels are still evident as are the drainage channels and the main drainage channel down the centre of the field.
First job to reinstate it would be to establish the level of water needed to flow into the main carrier, when dammed up at the sluice the water will backup up the stream to the ford, as long as the depth of water in the ford is not affected it would be feasible to carry on with reinstating the channels and the sluice.
This would bring back a very old management tool that had been in use for around two hundred years it got neglected when machinery and tractors took over from the horse and cart, so this system has not been activated or utilised in the last seventy five years.
From the Millian Brook around forty acres would have been flooded from three or maybe four sluices, on each one the water returns to the main flow of the brook.
Another system ran from the river Sow, and that covered getting on for a hundred acres with one of its main carries running under a brick culvert under the main West Coast main railway lines. From a vantage point you are able to see the pattern of the channels that had been established before the railways were cut through the countryside.
The Railway Across The peat bog
Its nice to look at very old maps, all faded and dog eared,
See what has change over the years, and what has disappeared,
Most roads and lanes are still the same, so are most the fields,
Village houses have increased, built in corners quite concealed.
Can see where the railway has, cut through field and ditch,
Diagonally they run to it, and a culvert they did pitch,
A hundred and seventy years ago, they dug a line right through,
With bridges over on a bank, and some went under too.
Across the peat bog they had dug, and filled it up with stone,
To this day now the rails sink, the levels they need to hone,
Most of the work was by hand, and horse and cart as well,
Men of steel they must have been, the tales they had to tell.
You must not know too much or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and watercraft; a certain free-margin, and even vagueness - ignorance, credulity - helps your enjoyment of these things.
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)
As kids, one of the ways to get us to go to Sunday school was to put on a trip to a pantomime around Christmas time or a trip to the seaside, usually New Brighton, that's just along the north coast of Wales. This was chosen because it is the nearest coastal destination from where we live.
So every Sunday that we attended Sunday school we had a stamp stuck in a book, and unless we had all the stamps over the six month period, we could not go; the same went for the pantomime.
At the age of five or six or seven nothing was more important than going on a luxurious coach, a twenty nine seater, where the driver sat in the same compartment as the passengers, where we could see how he drove the bus, and watch all the controls he used, watch him change gear, and how the Bedford petrol engine accelerated, how the gear box in third gear had that distinctive whine. We would get off the coach at the halfway mark and marvel at how warm the huge tyres were, and were given time to "water the horses" before climbing aboard again.
At certain points as we neared our destination we were told to see who could see the sea first, then a huge cheer would go up, then out of sight again for a while then cheer again..
It took best part of three hours to make the seventy five miles journey, there was no such thing as motorways back then, and dual carriageways were very few and far between. I remember all the heavy goods vehicles had a 20mph sign on the rear end, and that was their limit when loaded, and often it was these H G V's that hampered the progress of other road users.
Eventually we all got off the coach with our mothers and headed for the beach, those that had been before knew what the routine was, and promptly stripped off and into swimming trunks and off into the edge of the sea.
Mothers of coarse had come well prepared with a huge bag with towels and sandwiches and pop and all spread out a towel to sit on to watch the kids did not get washed away. However this is a shortened version of how the day usually went.
A Day Out to the Sea Side
As kids we went to Sunday school, every week the same,
Had a stamp stuck in a book, for religion is why we came,
Come the summer they booked a coach, an outing to the seaside,
Always was New Brighton, pent up, a good three hours ride.
Started early from the village, pee stop on the way,
Glimpse the sea from way back far, us kids we shout hooray,
Every glimpse from way back far, loud cheer us kids we clapped,
Couldn't wait to hit the beach, in that bus we were trapped.
Stripped off behind a towel, that our Mothers held,
Into trunks and off down the beach, into the sea we yelled,
With bucket n' spades, built a castle, with flag on the top.
Dug a moat all around it, filled with buckets of water we slopped.
Then a strong wave came, filled it faster than it oughta,
Too much now it over flowed, filled it up with sea water,
Build a dam to hold it back, and faster still we dug,
Now we know the power of the sea, to hold it back, silly mugs.
Mother spread a towel out, to have a picnic on the sands,
Sandwiches in door steps, large bites we took with gritty hands,
Cake as well she had made, then washed it down with Corona pop,
So tiring was that long day out, slept all way home without a stop.
Surprising as it may be, there were no end of the older generation in the village back then who had never seen the sea, I know my parents had been in their younger days on a coach trip to the sea in what they then called a Charabang, the forerunner to today's coaches, it was open sided and had wooden slatted seats the stretch right across the width of the vehicle and a running board / step along each side to let people get on and off. It had blow up tyres and wooden spoke wheels carrying about twenty five passengers, these were sheltered by a full length canopy that covered the driver as well.
In the 1950's father bought a bit bigger car that would accommodate all six of us, plus luggage, and for a few years we all went on holiday together to the sea side. When us oldest two left school, we were left "home alone" so to speak, to cook for our selves and do our regular jobs on the farm. Each morning mothers regular helper would call for an hour and do our washing up, and upon checking in the pantry she found fly blown bacon, bacon that should have been put in the pantry safe, (safe in this case is a fine wire mesh store cupboard that was designed to keep flies off food but let it be ventilated at the same time, before the refrigerator had been invented). My brother and I had just scraped off the yellow flies eggs and dropped in the fry pan, waste not want not, a good hot frizzle in the pan would soon make it safe to eat.
Mother always looked forward to going on holiday, father was a bit more reluctant, but mother had to admit the she always looked forward even more to getting back again to her own home and her own bed.
The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
The gut had twisted and the small intestine had gone black, and the large intestine was red and distended with air, maybe the gas has started to blow it up as it had been dead over night.
You may have read my blog twins twins twins, well looking back now I totally regret turning them out on a "home" field, it runs along the back of the village houses and also the village pub. As with all country pubs they are having a bad time, and last night the publican threw a last fling party and later as it went dark brought out his boxes of fireworks. I could hear some of them going off in our house, particularly a firework the spits a banger high in the air every four or five seconds a dozen times, and explodes about forty foot up in the air.
This morning (8th June 2009)I went to look round the stock and went into this "home field", all four cows and six calves were laying down not twenty five yard from the pub, all got up except one calf, and that was lying flat out. It was dead, a huge five week old black Hereford cross bull calf, it was clean, no marks on it, no bite marks, no sense of stress to it at all. After speaking to the vet about possible poisoning, with yew or some other garden hedges that are evergreen, or the possibility of whether it has eaten lawn mowings, (I know that will kill horses) we came to the conclusion the best thing was to take it to the hunt kennels and get them to open it up.
It was dually opened up only to find that all the small intestine had gone black, and the large intestine was red and distended with air, maybe the gas has started to blow it up as it had been dead over night. However it looked as though it had got a twisted gut, and the one section was dead, we looked at the stomach contents, it was full of grass, in of the other stomachs was full of milk already looking like a ball of cheese, it had been eating and drinking right up to the point of when it twisted its guts.
It was a 90/100 kg calf, five weeks old, health and growing fast, and it was a twin, in the market it would be in excess of two hundred and fifty pounds. We cannot prove it was the fireworks that triggered it of, but the co incidents was their,
On most of the occasions the publican tells us of any firework display, so we can move stock and ponies away from the adjacent fields, but he let these off on impulse ,(or could it be malicious). We will never know, but I will be very careful not to put very young stock in that field again.
Like I have been told from my very early days of farming "where you've got livestock, you've got dead stock".
Thought at the time that it was too good to be true to have three sets of twins in one year, and be well up on my calf/cow ratio.
But that's life.