The holly is only seen as garden hedges in the more sandy parishes of Worcestershire, but here in the Forest it is a splendid feature, growing to a great size and height. In winter its bright shining leaves reflecting the sunlight enliven the woods, so that we never get the bare and cheerless look of places where the elm and the whitethorn hedge dominate the landscape. In spring its small white blossoms are thickly distributed, and at Christmas its scarlet berries are ever welcome. Its prickles protect it from browsing cattle and Forest ponies, but it is interesting to notice that many of the leaves on the topmost branches being out of reach of the animals are devoid of this protection.
CORN—WHEAT—RIDGE AND FURROW—BARLEY—FARMERS NEWSTYLE AND OLDSTYLE.
“He led me thro’
the short sweet-smelling lanes
Of his wheat-suburb, babbling as he went.”
I do not propose to enter upon the ordinary details of arable farming, as not of very general interest, except for those actually engaged thereon. I am aiming especially at the more unusual crops, and what I may call the curiosities of agriculture. It is most interesting to turn to Virgil’s Georgics and see how they apply after the lapse of nearly twenty centuries to the farm-work of the present day. Horace, too, was a farmer, though perhaps more of an amateur; he exclaims at the busy scene presented when men and horses are engaged in active field work:
“Heu heu! quantus equis quantus adest viris Sudor!”
which, by the way, was rendered with Victorian propriety by a well-known Oxford professor, “What a quantity of perspiration!” etc. Probably Horace had been watching the sowing of barley or oats on a fine March morning, “the peck of March dust,” which we know is “worth a King’s ransom,” flying behind the harrows. George Cruikshank gives a very spirited and comic realization of Horace’s lines, in Hoskin’s Talpa, where ploughing, sowing, harrowing, reaping, harvesting, thrashing, grinding and carting away the finished product, are all actively proceeding in the same field.
The origin of the word “field,” still locally pronounced “feld,” as in “Badsey Feld,” near Evesham, takes us back to primeval times when the country was mostly forest, of which certain parts had been “felled,” and were thus distinguished as opposed to the untouched portions. We may be sure that the best pieces of land were the first to be brought under cultivation, and it is thus that the best land in most old parishes, at the present day, is to be found close to the village, and is generally a portion of the manor property. Later, where glebe was allotted for the parson’s benefit, the poorer parts were apparently considered good enough for the purpose, so that we generally expect to find the glebe on somewhat inferior land.