Regarding myself.

Autumn 2008
Interesting that this web-site was commenced around ten years ago. The first full years entry was for 2000, but the actual site would have been 'put up' a year or so before that. I had thought it would be a good exercise to try.  I had spent forty four years 'tied to cows tails, these being dispersed in 1995, I was starting to enjoy more freedom. Within a week of the cows going I'd got myself a new computer, and was linking it up to the 'Internet' - the 'web' as such had not got going at that time. In any case the only connection that could be made was by the telephone line, and that itself was by no means an easy process.
We also started to travel. While I was still fully occupied, Muriel had purchased her cottage in County Leitrim, so to that would have been one of many trips, likewise being a base for travels round Ireland. One memorable trip in this period was to Norway, we drove up to Newcastle, and from there caught a boat which conveyed our us and car to Bergen. From this town we took a six hundred mile drive round and sometimes over fiords and under mountains  - we used both ferries and road tunnels, the latter very long and unlit I recall. Another long trip was down through western France, into Spain, then down and through the middle of that country via Toledo and Caceras, then over the border into Portugal, from here up through to the north where we'd booked a cottage for a week. Then across the top of Spain to Santander for the ferry back to England. This long journey took place in January, with much of Spain covered in snow. 
Something else not recorded is a long walk we did: Train Bath to Warminster, then across part of Salisbury Plain to Semley, staying the night at the Bennet Arms. Next morning through South West Wiltshire - an area of England I've always had a fancy for, then the highest village in Dorset, Ashmore, and on on down through the lanes to the very busy A350, walking along this, we found a room that night in the Talbot Hotel at Iwern Minster. Next morning, first south as far as the A357 over the Stour and on through the lanes and villages - including the famous Milton Abbas. Traversing fields we eventually reached the Fox at Ansty - we'd previously stayed at this hostelry. They found us a room, after I admit some doubt - I had visions of sleeping under a hedge! Another bed the following night at Sydling St Nicholas. Next night at Abbotsbury, finally ending this trek in Weymouth. Quite a walk, we were quite proud of it.
These exploits are what stick out in my memory, for the four years or so between ceasing the drudge of cow keeping, to the commencement of this on-line diary. In fact, truth be told memory in my 'freedom' years, could have been something of a problem, had I not commenced these records. Not a great deal that could stand out, and be worth recording from my working life, but very certainly this could not be said for my later years!
Memories are of great value and to my mind help to provide the glue of life. Great in my thoughts are the quite remarkable aspects in history I've lived through: Four years old when the Second World War started. The majority of that age and older are able to recall aspects in that era that impinged on us.  When a child, it was quite an event to see a vehicle pass our farm at all. Much transport was still by rail. In this we were lucky, the main line between London and Bristol traversing the farm, this also providing great interest. But it is the other changes I've lived through I consider so astounding. In this I consider myself to have been lucky, but I am rather fearful that those born say fifty years later than myself might not be so fortunate.

Just imagine: No television when I was young. No computers likewise. So no 'Internet', in fact I tend to the view that linking computers together to form the 'Internet' might be about the best of the many changes I've seen. This 'linking' is in fact still changing and improving - originally by copper telephone wires, but now lately without any 'hard' connection at all. Interesting that I first linked a computer to the 'phone line back in the mid eighties. The text then coming 'down the line' was so slow entering the screen, that I could read it as it came across - a most remarkable improvement has occurred since then I'm pleased to say. The then slow speeds, plus the fact that I felt this format of comment could be addictive, and time I could not afford. So I gave up, and my use of the Internet recommenced immediately my 'day job' ceased.

The changes in the economy and farming that have taken place during my lifetime I likewise consider quite remarkable. When I was a kid, virtualy all cows were milked by hand - in fact I did this myself for a period of years. Likewise, until I was around ten years old, much of farm work was still done with horses. Electricity was not available in our rural area's for perhaps a couple of decades after my life had started. The use of a car arrived around the same time. It was I recall three decades or so before we managed to obtain a television.

I very much doubt any previous lifetime has experienced the social and economic changes as we have seen: The life of woman in society, the amount of travel many of us now do, so on, and so forth - we can all add to the list. Perhaps the great thing is to appreciate these changes, and benefit from the interest and enjoyment they bring.

Finance:   Nothing so far regarding this wholly important subject, and on which ever since my  teen years, I've always had a great interest. An interest which I should  be honest enough to acknowledge, has served me  really well. I took the view that agriculture was not the best place to invest in, so whenever I could, took money away, and found other homes for it. In short, any method I could find to help it to grow, and to benefit my wealth. At this time in my life, quite some years after I ceased full time work, looking back I don't consider I've done too badly.
Remarks regarding my background, would have been written getting on for ten year ago, i.e. close to the end of the 20th Century. There appears little reason for alteration, to my then comments. I do admit those were rather lacking in aspects as to my views and opinions - of which I have plenty! For example; I tend to the left in my political opinions, hovering between membership of either the Liberal Party, or the Labour Party - currently the latter. Never 'active' I do confess. In earlier days this would have been constrained by my work, nowadays perhaps by age, but more likely, travel activities. In reality, I much prefer to be non-active in politics.

Some remarks as to how my interest in boating came about: A magazine article read when I was in my teens engaged me. But at that time only to dream about of course. My life's work has been spent in the open air, and always involved much movement. Since then I've devolved some of this
into walking and exploring. But this entails much activity. Boating is a little more sedentary, while still very much in 'the open'. I find the challenge of actually handling the boat interesting, and am really pleased that both Muriel and myself have taken to this fresh activity so well.

My background is from farming stock in north west Wiltshire. Both lines - my mother who was a Bryant, seemed to have stayed in a tight area bounded by Malmesbury, Calne, and Chippenham.
I had better stress that I have done virtually no research myself on family history or genealogy. The Bryant side was researched by someone who was doing research on his own line, and came down ours. He told me someone had placed the details regarding the Fry's in the Genealogical Library in London. Just who this was and for what reason they did it, I would be interested to know.
Anyway, it appears accurate from what my father told me. His father John had moved into Sutton Lane farm, Langley Burrell in 188O, and his father (my great grandfather) William farmed at Stanley Abbey Farm. Earlier than this things get complicated, there were an awful lot of Fry's around this small area at this time, so research becomes difficult.
My mother's father had farmed at Gate Farm, Sutton Benger. As can be seen from Genealogy his father was not young when he was starting his family, but he did tell my mother what a trial he and his brothers must have been to his dad when they were young. I understand that they had been brought up at the Greathouse, Kington Langley (now a Cheshire Home).
One other snippet regarding the Bryants. My grandfathers brother Wayte farmed at Barrow Farm, Langley Burrell, this was the same Wayte Bryant who was often mentioned by the Victorian clerical diarist Francis Kilvert, who's father was vicar of this parish.
My own history
To move from family history to my own. Together with my parents and sister, we moved to a small farm at the hamlet of Pennsylvania, six miles north of Bath in 1948. There we took over a herd of Guernsey cows. Like many herds at that time, these were milked in rather ancient buildings. In the summer months they would have been out on pasture, only coming into these sheds, where they had to tied up by chains round their necks, twice a day for milking. In five months of winter though much more work was involved, they spent almost all the time inside, they were fed inside as well, all the feed had to be carted to them.
At that time, the middle of the last century, the vast majority of cattle were fed mainly on hay, very little silage was made in those days. The main reason for this was the lack of machinery. In the thirties, almost all the heaviest work carried out on a farm was horse powered. Slowly through the forties this started to change, and farms started to get tractors. By the early fifties almost every farm had at least one tractor, though by the standards of nowadays, these were very low powered.
Apart from the affects this lack of machine power had on the management and feeding of dairy cows, it also touched much other farm practices. Up till the general use of tractors, grassland had not been treated as a 'crop'. The war and scientific practice had indicated the benefits of ploughing and reseeding grassland. Improved strains of grass and clover became available, these showed quite remarkable growth increases if they were treated with chemical fertilizer.
These days some farmers who have had no knowledge of the farming of fifty and more years ago, think it a good idea to try and farm as it was done then - to try and farm "organic" in fact. Idealistic rather than realistic is my view of this practice. To judge by my own experience of actually trying to farm by this method - as most others had to at that time, this will not last.
In my working life as a farmer, I have seen through many changes. Looking back through history of farming 'before my time' I get the impression that my period in the job experienced greater revolution than any previous. I reckon that I have been lucky in passing through such an improvement. I ought also to admit being fortunate that as compared to the working lives of many others, I have never had a change of work or job. Just as important in my mind is the fact that any success or otherwise is entirely down to me. Many men's work and promotion in life has been affected by others. I've managed to escape office politics.

Apart from my job

Maps might have been my earliest true interest. This continues to the present day. I used to often wonder if many other people enjoyed perusing Ordnance Survey maps as much as I did, several factors making me think that this might be so. It was not till recent years though, that I came across a Society through which I could share this rather unusual enjoyment with others. The OS fan club I call this, but officially it is termed "The Charles Close Society" Charles Close by the way was a former director of the OS, The name 'Ordnance Survey' not of course being available for use by an unofficial body.                      
Examining maps for me generated a wish to travel. Not easy for much of this when cows had to be milked at each end of the day. A few trips did occur however, down to Cornwall for example, then three years later, in 1966 a fortnight long 'ramble' round Ireland by rail. The same length away in 1969 to Majorca. In later years I managed to 'wangle' a couple of motoring trips into Europe, the first being down to Geneva, the second venturing rather further through Germany and Austria.     

Giving up my 'day job' obviously allows more freedom to explore, Trying to count the number of ferries that I have driven my car onto, would send me to sleep faster than adding up sheep! These journeys extending from Norway to down below the middle of Spain and Portugal, and east as far as Croatia - no, we've never been west of Ireland!

Specially so in early days, farm work involved much manual effort - no television then, so I did read while relaxing. Radio as well as newspapers must have opened up an interest in politics. Likewise finance, the 'city' sections of papers for some reason being a particular draw to me. I've no doubt that this early wish to understand how money could be worked best, has been of much advantage for our more mature times.

My earliest memories
Thought I should record some of my earliest memories of  farming, and also the war. Regarding former utterly massive changes since I've been around, even more so for my dad who was born in 1884!, so he was around when virtually all farm work was horse powered, a lot in my early days too. The first tractor I can recall on our farm was a brown Ford that would have "spade lugs" on iron wheels. For hauling in the harvest, we had (I think) eight 'boat wagons' - as can be seen in farm museums, I cannot recall a tractor being used to  haul these.

One 'carry over' from earlier times, was preparing for harvest, a field of grain to be cut by the binder had to be cut around by hand to allow entry by the binder, and enough room round the field to start cutting without damaging the crop. My dad and the chaps did this job with "hooks and crooks". The 'hook' was the curved 'sickle' - still well described in dictionary's, and the 'crook' was usually just a branch shaped to hold a clump of straw against the hook. The 'sheives' of cut straw were collected into bundles, and tied with a handful of straw. Ought to be queried why was a scyth not used, surely not so 'backbreaking'? Yes, I would have thought so to. Convenient for gathering into bundles I assume.
As for milking cows, it was all done by hand - not very hygenic in practice as  recall! All milk was sent in churns, and I recall the size of these did vary. Nestle's used 8 gallon churns, but the majority of the rest were of 10 gallon size. Fact, think i recall even heavier - 17 gallons was it? Surely it would have taken two men to lift these? Amazing what men working on farms could carry though in those days - I'm thinking of those great Hessian sacks of wheat they carried from the thrashing machine. Yes the thrashing machine! There were contractors who travelled the countryside doing this job. Once as I rember, it was powered by a steam 'traction engine' - not sure how sparks where prevented, but obviously they had to be, so much dry straw around. Usually a "John Deere" I think did this work.
Born in 1935 I can recall a lot about the war - certainly the massive number of Americans in the countryside just prior to D Day. We used to watch them at Kellaways bridge drive their Jeeps into the river via a ramp which can be seen on the left looking up river. They drove these up the river and came out into the paddock on the right, recall the amount of water swilling out as they swung round!

Back to 'index' page