2011 Streak Day 180/365: Cycle - 20.61 miles, Time - 1hr 33min, Weather - Constable sky, a nice day
I almost stopped to take a picture of some corn fields to follow up my quotations from William Cobbett because he remarked upon the quality of the crops.
The wheat is good all the way. The oats and barley good enough till I came to Hempstead. But the land along here is very fine: red tenacious, flinty loam upon a bed of chalk, a yard or two beneath, which in my opinion, is the very best corn land that we have in England
Of course I could also have stopped at a commercial wood and shown some examples of “villainous things of the fir tribe”. Instead I took a picture of this field of flax, a crop not mentioned in Rural Rides - a bit surprising as it has a long history in this country.
Thinking about Cobbett gives me another perspective. Setting out on my bike I know that most of it will be a rural ride and I can look at the landscape and try to imagine the changes in 190 years. It is not easy - in fact I have very little clue. When you have uninterrupted views of fields and woods it is easy to imagine a changeless landscape - but you know that's not the case. Agriculture has changed, both in methods and crops. Field size, hedgerows, the mix of livestock to arable is different. But the biggest change will be the number of people needed to work the land. You can ride along the lanes and not see anybody in the fields (today I saw 1 tractor; that was all, and that was on the road). The villages now are no longer comprised of rough, workmen’s dwellings, instead the cottage drives are full of SUVs and the average level of wealth is very high.
Hemel is in the area but not of it.
Mostly though I do not think about socio-economics. I take pleasure in the activity, enjoy the views and think about how fortunate I am to have such landscape so easily available.