FARMING AROUND ROWLANDS CASTLE in 1987
A survey of local farms was conducted in 1987 by Ian Drinkwater, then aged fifteen and a student at Portsmouth Grammar School, for his GCSE course. The survey provides the status or ‘benchmark’ of farming practices at that time, enabling comparisons with subsequent times, showing the nature of any changes in practices. Edit.
This Project is a study of comparative farming practices, and factors influencing them, around the village of Rowlands Castle.
Rowlands Castle is a small village of about 3,500 inhabitants, in East Hampshire, very close to the West Sussex/Hampshire border. East Hampshire is still a mainly rural area, and agriculture remains the most important industry. This is certainly true around Rowlands Castle where, apart from agriculture, the only industries are a couple of building merchants and a maker of navigational equipment for boats.
Here, I will quickly explain how I set about compiling this project. Firstly, I decided on a title, and then I set about making the questionnaires, setting questions that I felt would apply to the title. Once the questionnaires had been photocopied, I went round to each farm in turn, introduced myself, and left the questionnaires. A week later, depending on how convenient it was to the farmers, I went and collected the finished questionnaires (one was in fact returned by post, as the farmer was away for several weeks). By now, secondary information had been collected to aid in the studying of the questionnaires, and finally the project was actually written up.
MAP OF THE AREA STUDIED
Description of the Area
As mentioned, East Hampshire is still a mainly agricultural region. In Hampshire as a whole, 61% of the countryside is actually farmed. In the survey carried out, it can be seen that of the area studies, 2,738 acres out of 4,800 acres were farmed, working out as just over 57%. This doesn’t include farm-owned woodland. However, grants are given to farmers who wish to improve the landscape and wildlife value of their farms, and this does include the planting of trees. The percentage of woodland around Rowlands Castle is just above 30%, compared to Hampshire’s 16%, which just goes to show how much more ruralised this area is, and the size of the urbanised area here is under 10%, compared to 19% for Hampshire.
The physical factors affecting farming are either ‘climatic’ or ‘topographic’. The climatic ones include the amount of rain each farm receives, and thus what the drainage is like, the temperatures, and each farm’s aspect, i.e. which direction the farm faces, but in this case the temperatures are all roughly the same, and all the farms have a southerly aspect (this allows the land to warm up early in Spring, and to capture the maximum sunlight). The type of ground the farm is based on, and the type of relief the farmland is subject to, come under topographic factors.
Looking at the questionnaires, it could be noticed that when it came to the soils, the higher farms were mainly covered by a loam soil, whereas, those lower down in the valleys were more of a clay type. This probably occurred in the Ice Age when the clay was carried and deposited by rivers, onto the bottom of the valleys. The problem with clay is that it is very heavy and waterlogs very easily. Nowadays, however, draining, and even new techniques using herbicides have opened once useless heavy clay areas to all types of farming. In fact, today’s modern techniques mean that there are far less major obstacles to the type of farming carried out in any particular area, something that is shown up in the studying of these questionnaires. One unchangeable problem is that associated with the difficulties of crop farming due to hilly country. It is very difficult to use machinery on slopes, and slopes also tend to have thinner layers of soil which are therefore of poorer quality than the soils on flat land. This is verified in the knowledge that of the two crop farms, Treadwheel and Woodhouse Ashes farms, both are on flat land, whiles of the three livestock farms, two are in hilly areas (Wick and St Giles farms, whilst the other one, Mays Coppice, is based on a clay/flint soil structure which “holds water during rainy periods making machinery movement difficult, and the flints cause considerable damage to cultivators, seed drills, etc”.
However, if the farm is based on flat land, then money must be put into drainage systems as five of the seven farms that are ‘wet in winter’ are found on flat country. In fact, these five were the only ones on flat country.
- Description of the types of farming
When it comes down as to which type of farming is to be done, it can be one of three main choices: Livestock, Crop, or Mixed. The choice is based on whether the area is most suitable for any one of the three, which is the most profitable one at the time, whether the farmer has any preference and whether he has any limits i.e. how much money he has to spend on equipment etc.
Since 1978, in Hampshire, specialist and dairy farms, pig and poultry farms, vegetable, fruit and horticulture specialists, and general and mixed farms have all reduced in number, while those involved with livestock and cereal cropping have increased (this is so, even though the numbers of many types of livestock have decreased as has the area of certain crops farmed). In the local area, 50% of farms were mixed, 30% were livestock only, and the remaining 20% were crop-growing farms.
i – Livestock Farming
The decline in dairy farming is partly due to the introduction of milk quotas in 1984, and a decrease of around 15% in milk and cream consumption. This national trend is also shown in the area by the fact that there are only 240 dairy cattle. The beef market was depressed when, on the introduction of milk quotas, a large number of cull cows (those surplus to requirements) flooded the market. The position was aggravated with some young stock, intended for the dairy herd, also coming onto the beef market. Recently, further cuts in beef production, over the next two years, have been announced by the Minister of Agriculture. However, here the market is still reasonably healthy with only the two non-livestock farms not into beef cattle rearing and with 674 beef cattle actually being kept. There has also, in recent years, been an increase in the number of sheep grazed in this county (76% from 1974 to 1984), although this is not greatly depicted in the survey. These sheep are especially reared for their meat which is exported to Europe, and France in particular. The market for pig and poultry products is notoriously volatile, as a small percentage of overproduction can disproportionately affect the price. These two also tend to be more specialist farming. I.e. one farm may keep many, but many farms will keep none.
This pie-chart shows the number of different livestock kept by the farms studied.
ii – Crop Farming
Cereal farmers face an even more uncertain future. The barley market has dropped considerably since 1980 when some larger farms grew barley almost exclusively. The average price for barley had dropped from £117.80 per tonne in 1983, to £104.40 per tonne in 1985, and this figure is estimated to become around £90 – 95 per tonne by the end of 1987. It is also interesting to note that barley is grown on six farms which, on average, have only 64 acres each, compared to an average of 153 acres for the seven wheat-growing farms. This depicts the county as a whole, in which wheat production has risen since the early 1980s. In fact, even though the quality of some wheat is low, it still pays significantly better than barley. There is also an interchange between the use of wheat and barley for animal feed, so that if the price of wheat goes down, then some purchases can still be made for animal feed use, instead of barley. Rapeseed production in Hampshire as a whole has increased by 36%, and the 93 acres around Rowlands Castle back this up. Only three farms are involved in vegetable growing, but these are involved quite heavily, with 70 acres of potatoes being produced (albeit by only one farm) which goes with a rise of 16.7% nationally, in potato consumption. Beans are also produced in large areas as are peas. Finally, 20 acres of maize are grown, as well as 20 acres of linseed.
(No specific figures on South Holt farm’s vegetable and soft fruit products are given, but it is known that among the vegetables produced are peas, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, beans, potatoes, calabrese, cauliflower, cabbage, courgettes, sweetcorn and leeks, while amongst the soft fruit products are strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. However, these are only for local consumption and are therefore not mass produced.)
This pie-chart shows the area, in acres, of the different types of crops produced.
When it came to what area of the farms was covered by crops, of the five mixed farms, four were 51 – 75% covered by crops. The other one, Northwood Farm, would also have been in that range had not the 106 acres of woodland (the second largest amount owned by a farm) been included in its area. This shows that to make crop-growing worthwhile, you need over half of the farm to be covered.
- Description of the problems faced
Naturally, farming faces many different problems. The main physical problems include:
- Soil Fertility
Of these, acidity, stones and weeds are the most troublesome. The problems with acidity only occur in those areas situated on clay bedrock. The farms on chalk bedrock are almost exclusively free from acidity. The farms free from problems with stones tend to be those into livestock farming. Of those free of stones, Wick and Mays Coppice are into livestock farming only, while, although Woodhouse Ashes is a crop growing farm, the stones obviously don’t cause problems. (The other livestock-only farm, St Giles, didn’t answer this question, but it is reasonable to assume they are also not troubled.) Livestock farms aren’t troubled because they don’t use machinery like combined harvesters, etc, which would be damaged working on a stony surface. Weeds are a problem everywhere as they compete with the crops for space, nutrients, and moisture, and do same on livestock farms, this time competing with grass. However, on livestock farms some weeds can be dangerous if eaten by the animals. Soil fertility, disease, and insects also cause problems, but are more easily solved by chemical means. Also, diseases tend to be sudden outbreaks, and they don’t remain in one place for a long time, so this is not necessarily a major problem.
Although not all the farms say that all the above points constitute problems, it is probable that they do all occur, although not in such a serious form as to be classed as a problem.
Obviously, if a problem crops up, there has to be a solution to at least cut down on the seriousness of its effect. Here are the different solutions used by the farmers:
Soil Fertility Fertilizers are the most common solution, but Holme farm used farmyard manure instead.
Stones Stones are very difficult to cope with, and apart from South Holt farm which removed them mechanically, most of the farms just left them.
Weeds There were several ways used to get rid of weeds, including spraying, ploughing, and using crop rotations.
Disease To fight disease, one farm used fungicides, but again crop rotation was used.
Insects Here, insecticides were used.
Acidity The most popular solution was the spreading of lime, but more specifically, Northwood farm spread two tons of chalk per acre every four years instead.
Finally, there are the economical problems. As one farmer comments:
“Farming is going through a difficult time with falling prices and over production of certain crops”.
Because of this, several of the farms are becoming involved with new enterprises. Both Holme farm, and Mays Coppice farm are involved with horses, as the farmer of Mays Coppice explains:
“Horses are a new enterprise on the farm. The South is fast becoming a ‘horse minded’ area where people will pay for Livery and Riding Lessons. Future plans include an indoor training area for horses.”
Holme farm is involved in the same way, and in Hampshire as a whole, farms are being forced to turn to ‘ancillary’ activities to supplement the money made from the farming itself.
As mentioned in the last section farming is going through a difficult phase. At the moment, crop growing generally is becoming more important than other types of farming. In the area studied, the production of wheat, vegetables, and rapeseed, as well as the numbers of beef cattle and sheep kept, have risen, while barley and dairy cattle have fallen, and poultry and pig keeping are almost non-existent. But, as the increases haven’t compensated enough for the decreases, farms are increasingly turning to different ways to make money. For example, keeping horses for livery and riding lessons.
Due to the wide range of equipment and chemicals available to modern farming, many of the obstacles used to hamper the type of farming once carried out in this area have been removed. Slopes are one of the few problems that remain, as crop farming cannot be carried out very easily on even relatively steep slopes. These slopes also have better drainage than the flat, clay covered lowlands which become waterlogged quite easily, and while the lowland has a clay soil, the highland has a loam soil.
Finally, the three main problems that are faced by farmers nowadays seem to be those caused by acidic and/or stony soil, and weeds.
Question: What is the area of your farm?
|Farms Visited||Size / Acres|
MAYS COPPICE Farm
SAINT GILES Farm
SOUTH HOLT Farm
WOODHOUSE ASHES Farm
Question: What is your farm involved with?
MAYS COPPICE Farm
SAINT GILES Farm
SOUTH HOLT Farm
WOODHOUSE ASHES Farm