Pause for Thought
I suspect that, like me, you might have watched the events unfolding on the streets of our major cities in the first half of August 2011 with a mixture of disbelief, distress and deep concern. In the period following there has been no shortage of views as to the causes of the disturbances and an equally diverse range of views as to the remedies. I won’t rehearse them here.
I do, however, find myself asking searching questions about the moral strength of our nation. What is it that holds our communities together, whether urban, suburban or rural communities? How robust is the moral fibre of our nation and its citizens? While our television screen delivered footage of the mobilisation of mobs wrecking and looting what others had worked hard to build, it also delivered into our living rooms a dignified, gracious citizen of our country who, in spite of the death of his son at the hands of the rioters, addressed his community appealing for calm and a halt to the violence. What he did required courage, discipline and an dignity that not only moved me to tears but provided that moral compass and voice of integrity that the situation so desperately needed. To my mind, in addressing his community he spoke to a need in the heart of our nation.
At a time of deep personal distress, he put others before self. When he could have reacted with anger and blame, he appealed to the best that is within the human heart. When he could have retreated into his home and closed the door, he came onto the streets of his community and acted as a force for good.
Riots and looting seem a long way from our rural environment. Thankfully, our community has a reputation for mutual cooperation and care for those who live here and visit here. But hard times in any number of guises can visit a neighbourhood, including ours. Should that day come, will the moral fibre of our community be robust enough? I would like to think that there will be those in our community, including me, who would be able to put others before self, stand up for what is just, speak and act with discipline for the good of the community.
Notes from a farmer
It’s the middle of November and nearly all the cattle are inside for winter. Its psychological I know, but it always feels better if the cattle can spend longer outside at grass than inside on winter rations; thanks to the good weather in September and October they managed it – by 5days. The thought of cattle coming in is always a daunting one but once they are inside you soon get used to the routine of feeding and mucking out.
Really, autumn is the start of the sheep year because it is the time when we let the tups go with the sheep. For those not involved with farming you may have wondered why sheep take on a colourful appearance on their back ends at this time of year. It is down to raddle – a coloured paste or crayon that we put on the brisket of the tups, which then leaves a mark on the ewes when he does his business. The colour is periodically changed so we get an idea when the sheep should be due to lamb. The gestation period of a sheep is 147 days but for ease of reckoning we say five months forward five days back – so if tups are loosed on the 5th of November, lambing time should start on the 1st of April. We try to ensure that the sheep are in optimum condition now, which will hopefully influence how many lambs are born in spring.
St Oswald’s Church
The tower is all that remains of the ancient Norman church dating back to the 13th century. During a blizzard in 1933 a fire gutted the church which was rebuilt as a replica of the 1870 building, in a decorative 14th century gothic style by Austin and Paley. Standing near the foot of Ingleborough, It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful churches in the diocese.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was married here and there is a compelling argument that Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ was set in this vicinity.
A Farmer’s Wife
Nearly 52 years ago I married a farmer’s son. A girl from a non-farming background working in the former Midland Bank, I little knew my training with figures would come in useful doing the farm accounts.
I had always, since a small child, had a love of animals so it came as a great shock to me when an animal died or had to be sold. I shed many a tear.
Farmers’ wives when first married didn’t usually go out to work but helped their husband on the farm. I learnt to milk with the machine (not by hand,) fed the calves and nurtured the poorly ones. Some you succeeded, with others you lost.
Lambing is a very busy time in the farming calendar, with early mornings and late nights. We lambed all the sheep outside in the fields and many a night I remember walking round the lambing sheep in the pouring rain and howling wind with a tilly lamp which some nights took a long time to light! But you never cease to be thrilled at the birth of a new lamb as it struggles to its feet in a few minutes and feeds from its mum.
All our cows had names and we knew them individually. We had three children who had to spend a lot of time outside with us whilst we were working – when small sitting in the pram in the shippon while we milked. One year when I was nearly due to have our third child, Alison, the feed representative called and I told him we had just had a set of triplets (quite unusual in cows.) He said ‘You don’t look as though you have!’!
Farming is a good life but also quite stressful at times – like the days when you get continuous rain when you want it dry to bring in the winter feed. However, you never fail to get it, even if it’s not the best quality. There is not much time for leisure (milking is twice a day 365 days a year) but we always tried to take one week’s holiday a year, usually in a caravan. I always say a holiday cost us twice as much because we had to employ a relief milker.
There is so much more I could write, but I love my life on the farm and wouldn’t change it if I had my time over again…..
The Changing Names of Thornton
Did you know that Far Westhouse used to be known as Near Westhouse
The ancient gravestones in Thornton churchyard reveal the changing names in Thornton. For many years Higher Westhouse went by the name of Over Westhouse as we see from the table tomb of John Wittingdale in 1842 on the right inside the lychgate. Bankhouse was the Winking Bank House Farm on Ann Tennant’s 1840 stone (on the right beside the church.)
Lower Westhouse used to be Nether Westhouse Green. The green was then probably more extensive since there were then six Green Cottages, one replaced by Rock View and two knocked into one behind the chapel.
Strangest of all, Far Westhouse, looking at the 1851 OS map, used to be known as Near Westhouse. Perhaps because the original West House (Halsteads?) was west of Thornton Hall but in the nineteenth century Thornton Hall had disappeared and the school and chapel were now at Lower Westhouse forming a new centre. So Near to Thornton Hall became Far from Lower Westhouse – Just a guess…