We had a rather damp morning checking some of the details of our Dairy Days walk up Waldendale from West Burton yesterday. Highlights included finding the interior wooden skelbuse and foddergang of a barn near Town Head farm still intact. The foddergang or booseheads divided the stalls where the cows were tied in the winter, from the hay mew where their feed was stored. The foddergang is the narrow passageway alongside the booses or stalls allowing the farmer access into the mew.
A little further on, after following the footpath south from Town Head, running along the parish boundary with Newbiggin, we reached this magnificent, but now derelict barn at the point where the footpath divides towards Forelands.
This area of fields is still known as Broats, from the Old Norse for ‘a small piece of land’ and there is clear evidence alongside the footpath of medieval ‘ridge and furrow’ ploughing, showing that 600 or more years ago, locals grew crops here such as oats, beans and barley.
We followed the path uphill to Forelands farm from here. These fields were part of one of West Burton’s medieval open fields called Forelands (hence the farm’s name). Each villager would have had one or more strips of land within the open field. Eventually some of these strip fields or ‘furlongs’ were given physical boundaries, in this case, banks with hedges on them. Some survive as lines of old trees, others, only the bank or a ditch survives.
We returned to West Burton, then had a walk out along the return part of the route from West Burton waterfalls up and along to Riddings farm. Here there was more evidence of medieval cultivation with lots of lynchets cut out of the steep slopes of the meadows we walked through. We also got distant views of the area of fields which was once West Burton’s common cow pasture – the green fields to the left of the large sycamore tree in the following photo. Sometime after the seventeenth century, the ‘beastgates’ which villagers once owned giving them the right to graze one or more cows here, were translated into acres and the pasture divided by the long straight walls visible in the photo. The later building of barns suggests that cows were eventually grazed elsewhere and the land given over to hay meadow.