FOOD AND FARMING
Farming in the Derrington area has changed considerably within living memory, though it remains an important part of the local economy and community. Historically, farming families in the area included Rawsthorne, Perry Reed, Busby, Timmis, Foster, Richardson, Brown and Tilley, and many of these families continue to farm today.
Years ago, there were many more farms, mostly much smaller than today’s average farm. In and around Derrington there were several dairy farms, as well as mixed farms which grew crops and raised animals. Some of these farms have completely disappeared and houses have been built on the land. Other farmhouses have long since become residences and their land sold off.
“Shortly after the second World War, our father employed Japanese ‘chick sexers’ – they were extremely efficient at it! One told us he used to be a Kamikaze Pilot”
Local Farmers David and John Rawsthorne
Would you have guessed that at the bottom of Mount Pleasant, where houses now stand, was ‘Lane End Farm’, growing peas, sprouts and corn and rearing pigs, cattle and chickens?
Did you know that the ‘Old Hall’ on Billington Lane, was also a working farm? Yew Tree Close was named after the old Yew Tree which originally stood opposite its entrance. Furthermore, just along the road, at the top of Mount Pleasant, mink were once reared for their fur at Blue Cross Farm!
Today’s farms are a mixture of modern intensive methods and more traditional mixed farming. Polytunnels now dominate much of the local landscape as soft fruit farming has expanded. Other local producers continue to follow more traditional methods, rotating cereals and potatoes and raising sheep, and our farming neighbours today have diversified into goat rearing, egg production, honey, bedding plants and even ‘horsiculture’.
Over the decades since the war, changes in farming methods have impacted on the environment, with loss of hedgerows, drainage of ponds and wetlands, use of chemicals and soil erosion. Today, many farmers are much more attuned to the need to produce food more sustainably – and in Derrington we are keen to promote local, sustainable food production and to support our local farmers.
A little extra information……
The change in farming methods has impacted on the environment. The field sizes used to be much smaller; there was a financial incentive to make the fields larger and due to this we have lost many hedgerows. Butts were made (undulations in the land) for drainage purposes, these are no longer there (due to cultivation) – there were also brick and ‘horseshoe’ drains under the soil.
Between the end of the war in 1945 and 1995 over 60% of hedgerows in England and Wales were removed. Hedgerows are important wildlife habitats but they limit the amount of land a farmer can use, and many wanted to merge small pastoral fields into huge arable fields due to the increased money they could make from that form of farming.
The loss of hedgerows also increased the chance of soil erosion occurring as they sheltered the land from wind, helping the soil to bind together.
The increased use of pesticides and fertilizers has led to air and water pollution. Chemicals used on the fields, are easily washed into rivers by rainwater and can seriously affect the fish, birds and plants of the river. They can also leach through the ground and into rivers. Fertilizers in water can cause rapid algae growth. This then can lead to the water being starved of oxygen so there is not enough for other plants, and especially fish. This process is called eutrophication.
The removal of hedgerows and the change from pasture to arable farming has led to many cases of increased soil erosion. The hedges protected the soil from wind erosion, and their removal created huge fields across which the wind could race. Arable crops do not bind the soil together as well as grass and so more soil was eroded by rainwater run-off.
Also the crops did not cover the ground all year round and when the fields were ploughed they were even more susceptible to rapid erosion, and flooding.
James Leighton Rawsthorne
Turning Hay, late 1930’s
John Rawsthorne, son of James,
Moving stock, March 2012