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One Hundred Years of Hill Farming
One Hundred Years of Hill Farming
G. H. Cole
One Hundred Years of Hill Farming combines Geoffrey Cole's observations and experiences of farming and living in a National Park with the abundant records left by his father, completing a family farming record of one hundred years.
Paperback; 243 x 169mm
Several mono with a 32 page colour section.
Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
One Hundred Years of Hill Farming by G.H. Cole. Scotforth Books £13.99
"It turned out that we started at 5.00 a.m." That was the old routine, cleaning out the stables, feeding the horses, mucking out the byre, seeing the cows were foddered and caked, then milked and then feeding the calves. "This was all expected to be done by 7.30 a.m prompt, when we all went into the house for breakfast." This was the pattern of life for the young S.H.Cole, Geoff Cole's father, almost a hundred years ago when he started work on Christopher Hewetson's 160 acre farm at Midtown, Caldbeck - "A thrang place with only three of us and the servant girl to get through it."
In 1919, after four years farming, he bought the 77 acres of Brownrigg farm with a heaf on the fell and, on poor land and with a near derelict farmhouse, he set up as a farmer himself.
John Jackson, an Oxford classics don who played multilingual chess by postcard, would call in of a Sunday evening for a 'crack'. Geoff's mother remembers how every twenty-one years they would ride the 24 mile ride around the parish boundary. At Brockle Crag the boundary went through the passage of the farmhouse and the riders, sticking to their route rode right through the house.
Life was hard in the thirties. The farm carried a £650 overdraft, but S.H.s constant companions were his sheepdogs. His favourite, Nap, would get beaten when "he would take off for no apparent reason". Once he disappeared for days, and S.H., fearing he might be worrying sheep, went is search of him with his gun ready. He was prepared to shoot the dog, but, much to his relief, he found him asleep beneath a wall. After that he swore never to beat a dog again.
They bought Swaledale sheep, tractors replaced horses. During the war, even though they farmed at a thousand feet, they won county competitions for milk production. It was his "plan of growing kale for eatage until Christmas and mangolds to follow until spring, did it."
S.H. farmed and wrote his articles for the Herald. He realised how much life was changing and he collected things including "a Lewis machine gun (very illegal) a mantrap (lethal) a Carlisle policeman's truncheon (nasty) grandmother's Victorian clothes and an R.O.C. Lady Observer's issue great coat".
Geoff Cole, who has compiled this rich picture of a century of farming in Caldbeck, had a very different life himself. The smart teenager who won speaking competitions with Caldbeck Young Farmers, studied Agriculture in Cambridge after the War. Though he worked in Public Relations he yearned to return to hill farming, going back to Brownrigg and then, in order to buy a run-down hill farm in the Howgills, called Bramley, he became a college lecturer.
With a family memory which stretches back almost a full century, Geoffrey Cole can bear witness to the immense changes which have taken place and he feels justified in questioning the future: is it "a theme park or a World Heritage Area?"
With this wealth of experience, he argues that: "To bring back the smaller family farms to our valleys and their patterned fields, to return the hefted flocks to graze the fells and the cattle to keep down the bracken, will be a 50 - 75 year undertaking far beyond the ken and resources of those currently aware of and trying to tackle the problem with cash-limited, short-term fixes."
Every farmer will respond to Geoff's analysis of the changes facing farming. Everyone who is aware of the changes in country life over the past century will take pleasure in this detailed and well-illustrated account of farming in Caldbeck and beyond.
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