Ashburn in 1802: 9th April

Friday morning, to Ashburn, 9 miles. They graze a great many cattle this stage, mostly Irish ones. In making the puddle ponds, they make a large cast, take out the earth five or six feet deep; they sour or work up a great deal of earth in with the water till it gets as tough as rope. They will keep it in that stage for weeks. They then line the pond with it six or eight inches deep. In rainy weather the pond gets full and retains the water a long time, in many places all the year round. They work it very hard in; they rail it so as to let the cattle drink, but not to get in to spoil it with their feet. This is but a small town; some very good houses, but very little business going on.


From Ashburn to Derby, 12 miles. This is a large town, with well-built houses, all brick; a fine market place. I counted thirty-four butchers’ stalls, besides private ones. The country is very level, the soil dry, and the roads very sandy and heavy to ride upon. A great part of the land is in grass for pasture or hay. The hay is all taken from old lea, which they call meadow; fences here rather better kept. They all use wheel ploughs. I never see a plough without a wheel; sometimes four, five, and six horses all on end; never two abreast. This being market day, I dined with a large company, a medley of all sorts and callings. It was not long before farming came to be spoken of; and then I took a share. I wondered at their awkward method of working horses. They were curious to hear our method; but when I told them how much we could do with one man and two horses abreast, the straight lines they can draw, bearing upon any given point at a reasonable distance, they thought it all nonsense, and plainly said they could or would not believe me. I reasoned how ridiculous it was to have so many horses when the hindmost one had the whole burden at the end of the land, the rest all turning again idle. Many of their ploughs take two furrows where the ground is well made and plain; still, two single ones would do double the execution. They have very heavy horses, all black, of, great value; their ploughs very heavy made, all tempered by screws and screw bolts.


Burton OOFrom Derby to Burton, 12 miles. Most of the way fine level ground, and in most places very well farmed. Coming within five miles of Burton, we came very near the Trent; a very flat country on the banks of it for miles, mostly in grass, as in “floody” times it is often overflooded; fine, both hay and pasture, when well got in good seasons. Here, by the way, I saw ewes and lambs feeding upon rye and turnips, which had been sowed, mixed together, in the month of September. They sow this on very dry land after some other crop is taken off. After eating this in the month of March, or rather in April or May, they plough and fallow it, give a very little dung, and sow drilled turnips for winter feeding, which they say never misses being a good crop; after this barley, sown down with grass and grass seed for two or three years; their hay always taken from the old land. On a dry soil, I think this way of feeding very good, and would suit well on some lands in this country. They sow two bushels of rye and three pounds of turnip seed per acre, and in winter harrow it carefully. Burton stands on the Trent; small crafts come all the way from Hull, in many places on the river itself, in other places in canals. It is a pretty large town, well built, and very clean kept. There are three or four very good inns, besides many small public houses. Here are several breweries which pay an immense revenue to Government. Burton beer is famous all over Europe. They convey it by water east and west, where it goes to every corner.


There is a bridge over the river here, of a great number of arches – upwards of twenty. From Burton, over the rising-ground, over the south-east to Bradley Hall, the seat of the Earl of Chesterfield, is four miles. On the top of the hill on Bradley farm is a grove of very large trees, which serves as a land-mark for different countries. Bradley has been at one time a very stately place, but for a series of years it has not been attended to. In the park, which may be about 500 acres, there are a very great number of fine oak trees. Another lot has been planted perhaps fifty years ago, and are now as fine thriving trees as can be seen. The whole of the place is very much improved, the park all dressed off, any bank in it planted, and the approach to the house, new garden, and all the policy done to great taste. The house and offices are rather ancient than modern; the latter are buildings anew at a proper distance from the hall, on a very nice plan, and a pretty extensive scale. A new mansion house is in agitation; I have seen the plan. In the park are 360 deer, all of one colour, a light mouse dun, ten to twelve scores of sheep, and thirty small Highland cattle. The farm, without the park, may be five or six hundred acres, all well laid out, well fenced, and drained to very great purpose. That branch or operation seems as well understood, and as well executed, as anywhere I have seen; but as the factor is a son of my own, I am forbidden to say more. He no doubt serves one of the very best of masters, and gets much of his will. The character of their noblemen is great, and their example worthy of imitation; all about or under them live comfortably.

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