The long green line shows the Green Lane along which this first walk travels.
hindsight. But there were many untried theories in those days, most of them crazy and some of them even urging the direct opposite of
others. And where was the practical experience of the gains to be made, in hard reality? Commonly, these people wrote and preached a whole lot better than they farmed.
On the other hand, there were those who still argued against enclosure, saying that everyone should have a share of the land; but it was well known what inefficient husbandry, what idle hands, what resistance to change that would encourage. Enclosure was the best thing their forefathers had done to improve the land. Long ago, they had realised that individual enterprise would produce far more than could be achieved by waiting on the dullest members of the community to work on the open fields. So now they had had ditches and hedges, and good management of the fields, for a hundred years and more.
The walk took us up from the foot of Claypit Lane on the track which used to lead up to Chapel Farm Hitcham. We set out on our way in mid-afternoon, by what might be technically a “Green Lane” but in reality is just a stony track in contrast to the firm, even surface of today’s roads.
In this, the first of our twelve walks on the paths and green lanes of Chelsworth, we explored the land/the area of Claypit Lane as it runs up North from the Street to the Charity Lands close to our boundary with Kettlebaston. On the way, we passed other old paths and ways, and the sites where lost houses once stood.
On either side of the lane there are today wide, rich fields, in summer time heavy with crops, and we take the opportunity to reflect on the state of agriculture in the days, now nearly 300 years ago, when momentous changes were afoot. At the end of the walk, we will look at agriculture today by comparison.
At this time, conditions in the Suffolk countryside favoured the industrious villager. Harvests were good, on the whole, and corn prices held up well. Getting produce to market was of course the main problem, with the terrible condition of the unsurfaced roads. However, there were the river courses of the Brett and the Stour, and these would have carried much of the produce on their way to markets in London and elsewhere.
For the most part, farming methods had not yet changed noticeably, though word was spreading that there were better ways of growing corn and raising cattle.
A new device for sowing seed in drills, rather than broadcast, was used in some parishes, and it was reported that it allowed the fields to be better managed. There was talk of growing turnips and clover
to feed the livestock, and even of sowing good grasses especially for this purpose. And it was proposed that crops should be changed from year to year, that is, rotated every four years - first wheat, then turnips, then barley, and finally clover. The yields, they said, would increase; cattle would get fat and fertile, and the soil would be the richer for the manure they dropped.
People were also trying to breed horses and cattle more deliberately to improve the quality of the stock.
Local people could have done any of these things, with the benefit of