The Countryside About Us - April 1996

posted 1 Apr 2016, 04:04 by Chris Hoare   [ updated 1 Apr 2016, 04:08 ]

Living in our Parishes there are, naturally, folk who have been resident for many years. Indeed some were born and continue to live their lives in this same locality, if not the same house. Their memories are rich in recollections of yesteryear. Recently I have been recording some of their memories and quite fascinating it has been. How amazing it is to hear stories of the countryside about us which was in a rather different guise than we see today. 80 years ago there were several farms within the parish, most of which had dairy herds (not one remains!). Milk was collected from the farm dairy by the villagers. Suffolk horses provided the pulling power then, and after a strenuous day were waded into a horse pond where a house now stands in Brandeston Road. Cropping was much the same with the exception of no eye catching yellow fields of oil seed rape in May and June. Potatoes, sugarbeet, beans and cereals were part of the rotation which is now largely, but not entirely, replaced by wheat and rape. Children played on the small green at the foot of Mill Hill, which now would be in the middle of that precarious junction! In a cold winter the Mere was deliberately flooded and skaters zoomed about on the frozen surface. Lighted candles were placed in the evenings in jars around the perimeter beyond which the ice was too thin to bare the weight of the skaters. (Practical jokers sometimes moved the candles over a little towards the edge with predictable results!) Everything a resident needed was to hand in the village - forge, school, church, chapel, pubs, shops, (including a bicycle shop) and a cobbler. Oil lamps and well water were the norm. The doctor of more recent days had a wooden leg, which he removed when he went to bed. As a consequence, he was reluctant to turn out during the night because it was a struggle to put on his wooden leg ! How our lives have changed in so many respects. How many of us would really like to return to the “good old days”, I wonder? If only we could be selective, what a perfect life it would be.

Our Parish still has a good sheep population. Some are resident, whilst another flock, that has lambed early, puts in an appearance on rented grassland from time to time. Lambing is an anxious period for flock owners. However, the trauma of sorting out difficult births and bottle feeding orphans is quickly forgotten when, on a warm sunny April day, contented ewes and their mischievous lambs can be viewed as another lambing season well done. The financial rewards are quite another matter.

Over 3.6 inches (92mm) of rain in the year by early March suggests a very wet soil which will delay both farmer and gardener with their spring sowing plans. Nature seems to eventually strike her own balance. Does this mean a very dry summer? Only time will tell.

Roger Sykes

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