From around 1947 in our Parishes as well as most other East Anglian rural districts, the noble carthorse began to be replaced by the less peaceful tractor. The “clean legged” Suffolk Punch and the mighty Shire (less suited to our boulder clay soils because of the “feather” or hair on their lower legs which collected the sticky clay) began to become much less important as a means of farm power. Slowly, but with certainty, the tractor with all its oily smell and noise proved so much more suitable. At one time there were probably 4 horses to every 100 acres to cope with the toil of the farming year. It was a sad day in many a stable when “Whitefoot” or “Beauty” no longer stamped their great feet on the cobbles and silence replaced the munching and snorting which accompanied well earned “baits”.
Nevertheless, horses are still a common sight but not ploughing the wheat stubbles or pulling beet drills in emaculate straight lines. Instead, in our three parishes it is possible to see everything from a rescued Dartmoor pony, a Shetland pony, a Suffolk mare and even the occasional Shire. Horse drawn traps and wagonettes feature especially in the summertime. The Friesland Blacks on their exercise outings have no rivals for grandeur.
Just a parish “up the road” there is even the first Carmague horses ever in England. It is good then that we have not lost man’s oldest and most patient servant, but rather we have seen a sort of evolution, and might again when the oil runs out!
Walking along a shady and dampish footpath recently, I was excited to see a three foot plus length of harmless grass snake glide across the grass in front of me. It quickly vanished into the undergrowth. Its contrasting dark and light green colours were quite beautiful. I wished it well.