About the local meanings

Less than 2% work on the land or in forests. Only they and their families regularly use some ‘rural words’. Should I defer to 98% and not make meanings difficult, or use the language that is spoken over my chosen landscape?

The choice is made harder by the pictures inside ‘landscape words’. One of my favourites is the welsh word ‘glasne’ for the blue-green of a stream’s running water as it passes over stones in sunlight.

I have compromised by using an urban landscape style with a few rural landscape words that give me the chance of describing the ‘visuals’ a little more.

In order of appearance they are:

Feg: last year’s dead grass, brown with moss moving in. When a field is firm and dry in February and March feg can be harrowed with the spikes of a chain harrow. There is a change of colour first, the grass is darker. Somehow the feg joins up and on a windy day balls of it blow to the edges, ready to be raked and used to smother weeds preparing to be strong.

Tedding: grass cut for hay falls into a swath, a neat row of symmetrical stalks. If and when the forecast is for a dry spell those stalks are bobbed and tedded. Bobbing turns them into the sweetest smelling ruffles of rows, tedding puts them into mounds of rows ready for baling. Once bobbed and tedded, once the stalks are broken there is no turning back. Hay is made or lost because the rain got to the row first. There is so much more too, skill and anxiety, gain or loss, weight to be lifted and working into the night.

Headland: When ploughs were horse drawn a headland was needed all round the field’s edge to turn round. The rough pasture became a linear nature reserve. Some farmers leave a headland under a Stewardship Scheme.

Coston Stone: Coston manor was built from stone from its own quarry, as were so many old farms. The local stone is soft and crumble, some call it mud stone. Coston is relentlessly hard granite with flecks of quartz, a gem in Shropshire’s highly prized geology.

Pleached: is a laid hedge, a hedge laid down to create a stock proof barrier, cut from the upright trunk with just a tongue of sapwood left in contact with the roots. The craft requires the hedger to get inside, pull out the dead and unwanted, stake the shape and trim all with thorn proof gloves, billhook and axe.

Raddle: is a pad fitted to the belly of a mating ram, its coloured chalk tells which ewes he has visited and possibly how often too.

Cratch: holds hay bales taken onto the fields from October onwards when the grass has no great goodness but the sheep are more healthy foraging than being kept in sheds.

Edric: ‘Wild Edric‘ is a Shropshire hero, a near mythical resistance fighter.

Wads: Small hay bales are lengths of compressed wads,the compression is an art, it holds in moisture until the string is cut, keeping the hay fresh and sweet.

Beadle (or beetle): the great and heavy mallet that is wielded to drive in fence stakes.

Tump: is the Welsh word for a heap or mound.

Heft: is a Norse word used to describe how animals and people feel and show that they belong to an area of land. The Herdwick sheep of the Lake District (especially) need no fencing and do not stray.

Hiraeth: is a Welsh word for love, longing, nostalgia and hope (all together).

Dead stock: farming machinery and tools, as distinct from livestock.


Copyright © Colin Fletcher (words) and Jay Mitchell (pictures). The Clunbury Hill Cycle
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