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Furrow and Ridge. | by Pat Dalton...
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Furrow and Ridge.

This shot was taken just to the east of the village of Gumley in Leicester-shire, in the middle distance can be seen a typical furrow and ridge field, saddly they are disappearing from thev landscape..


"One of the most recognisable features of the English historic landscape, particularly in the Midlands, is `ridge and furrow'. This gives pasture fields an undulating, corrugated appearance, and in most cases marks the remains of medieval strip fields that were once under the plough.


Most people know something about the typical pre-enclosure farming system, in which villages were surrounded by large, hedgeless `open fields' that were farmed in strips. An individual farmer's holding, called a yardland in the South and an oxgang in the North, typically consisted of about 20 acres of land lying in 70 or so strips, or ridges, scattered throughout a township, no two ridges lying together. Typically each ridge measured a quarter of an acre in area - 11 yards (8m) wide, and 220 yards (200m) long, its length coming to be known as a `furlong', even though the term technically refers to a block of ridges, of whatever number, lying together within an open field.


This scattering of an individual holding was intended to ensure an even distribution of ridges across the fields, which were usually cultivated on a three-year crop rotation, carrying wheat and barley in the first year, beans and peas the next, and left fallow in the third year.


Some of the details of ridge and furrow, however - its purpose, date, distribution, and various identifiable peculiarities - are not so widely understood. Ridges were not created accidentally, but were cast up in order to create a self-draining seedbed. The furrow also acted as an open drain and served as an ownership demarcation between ridges.


The ridges were made by ploughing in a clockwise spiral, starting in the middle of the strip and eventually ploughing around the outside edge, with the plough constantly throwing the soil to the right. An anti-clockwise motion was adopted in the fallow season to cast some soil back towards the furrow and prevent cutting too deeply into infertile subsoil."


This is part of an article, more on the subject can be found at: -


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Taken on May 1, 2009