A Walk from London to John O'Groat's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 348 pages of information about A Walk from London to John O'Groat's.

Agriculture in England has to run the gauntlet of many pressing competitions, and carry a heavy burden of taxation as it runs.  These will be noticed, hereafter, in their proper connection.  Farming, therefore, is being reduced to a rigid science.  Every acre of land must be put up to its last ounce of production.  Every square foot of it must be utilised to the growth of something for man and beast.  Manures for different soils are tested with as much chemical precision as ever was quinine for human constitutions.  Dynameters are applied to prove the power of working machinery.  Labor is scrutinised and economised, and measured closely up to the value of a farthing’s-worth of capacity.  A shilling’s difference per acre in the cost of ploughing by horse-flesh or steam brings the latter into the field.  The sound of the flail is dying out of the land, and soon will be heard no more.  Even threshing machines worked by horses are being discarded, as too slow and old-fashioned.  Locomotive steam-engines, on broad-rimmed wheels, may be met on the turnpike road, travelling on their own legs from farm to farm to thresh out wheat, barley, oats, and beans, for a few pence per bushel.  They make nothing of ascending a hill without help, or of walking across a ploughed field to a rick-yard.  Iron post and rail fencing, in lengths of twenty feet on wheels, drawn about by a donkey, bids fair to supersede the old wooden hurdles for sheep fed on turnips or clover.  It is an iron age, and wire fencing is creeping into use, especially in the most scientifically cultivated districts of Scotland, where the elements and issues of the farmer’s balance-sheet are looked to with the most eager concern.  Iron wire grows faster than hawthorn or buckthorn.  It doubtless costs less.  It needs no yearly trimming, like shrubs with sap and leaves.  It does not occupy a furrow’s width as a boundary between two fields.  It may be easily transposed to vary enclosures.  It is not a nesting place for destructive birds or vermin.  These and other arguments, of the same utilitarian genus, are making perceptible headway.  Will they ever carry the day against the green hedges?  I think they would, very soon, if the English farmer owned the land he cultivates.  But such is rarely the case.  Still, this fact may not prevent the final consummation of this policy of material interest.  In a great many instances, the tenant might compromise with the landlord in such a way as to bring about this “modern improvement.”  And a comparatively few instances, showing a certain per centage of increased production per acre to the former, and a little additional rentage to the latter, would suffice to give the innovation an impulse that would sweep away half the hedges of the country, and deface that picture which so many generations have loved to such enthusiasm of admiration.

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A Walk from London to John O'Groat's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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