100 Objects 30: Medieval field systems

If you are out walking when the sun is low in the sky or snow has begun to melt you may see curved ridges in many of the fields around Parracombe. These are know as ‘ridge and furrow’ and are a remnant of ancient farming methods. Peasant farmers were allocated strips of land on which to grow their crops and they used a plough share which had a board to turn over the soil usually to the right. It wasn’t possible to reverse these ploughs so a clockwise process was adopted. The edge of the strip was ploughed and then the share lifted at the end of the strip. It was walked round on the uncultivated headland and then the plough re-attached and the other side of the strip was worked. This resulted in the soil along both sides being turned inward towards the centre of the strip, thus giving the characteristic mound profile. Early strips are often curved. In Parracombe good examples can be seen (when conditions are right) to the north and west of Bodley, around the bypass above Holwell Castle and near Rowley. They are best seen from a distance.

Strip fields highlighted by snow

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