The aspect of the Abberley Lives project that I was asked to research, was how farming has changed and how this has affected the lives of people in Abberley.
As a newcomer to the village and living in what used to be a farm barn, primarily used for fruit, this interested me greatly. The fact that I now live in what was a farm building is an instant reminder of change.
To research this aspect of Abberley life I was able to meet with and talk to many interesting people including local farmers and orchard growers. There was so much information and so many tales to tell that only a small amount of the research actually got into the book. Over the coming weeks I will share with you some of what appeared in the book and also some that didn’t make it.
The following piece sets the scene and is an extract from the book:
Abberley nestles within a landscape predominantly given over to farming. The patchwork of fields is very similar to that of 1911, although farms were more numerous then with smaller field sizes and overall acreage.
Farms were usually family concerns where everyone was expected to contribute, particularly at harvest time. They generally had a mixed range of animals and crops. In 1924, records show that Abberley had 19 farms which provided significant employment in the area.
The arrival of the tractor in the 1940s and increased mechanisation caused the biggest change to how farms were worked. Prior to this, shire horses powered the heavy work: Roy and Tony Neath well remember Jimmy and Bonnie, the horses at Church Farm. By the early 1950s most of these horses had disappeared.
Many of the crops grown today are the same as would have been seen in 1911: wheat, potatoes and grass for hay and silage. Mangelwurzels, kale and linseed were grown at Home Farm in the 1940s, the linseed flowers turning the fields a lovely blue. Abberley farmers grew sugar beet for the British Sugar Factory in Kidderminster until it closed in 2002. In recent years, rapeseed has become a popular crop, turning the fields a bright yellow.
When farms were smaller, they often had a productive vegetable patch, hens and some pigs to provide the family with food. Locals remember that until about 1960, there were 9 dairy farms in Abberley, so villagers were never far from fresh milk. Now the majority of land is given to arable use with some beef cattle sheep and pigs
Next time: The fruit harvest and orchards