Wednesday morning, from Hawkley to Stratford, 12 miles. This stage in general very plain, and the soil thin and poor; a great many beans planted in drills. They are well up, like cabbage plants. I found they had been planted in January or February. The enclosing or shape of enclosures here resembles the face of the country betwixt Maxton and Melrose, only no hills like the Eildons; the ridges are all of the broad crooked or curving shape. The hedges here are better, and very little ivy to be seen. The river passing here runs westward. A great deal of marsh or old hay ground on the hanks of it resembles the Meadows at Edinburgh. Small crafts go upon it, drawn by horses. Several cotton mills go by water. I have also seen corn mills going by water this stage. Stratford is a very neat clean place, not very large; few post chaises used here, all flys and diligences and opposition coaches; few to be seen on horseback. The horses used for labour are all of the heavy kind, in general with very rough legs.
GIPSIES IN 1802.
From Stratford to Shipton, [Shipston-on-Stour] 11 miles. The roads on this stage in general are very broad, perhaps 200 feet. A piece of grass ground left on both sides of it. Here bands of gipsies live in tents, and their horses and asses feed by the road-side. The gentlemen are not very fond of meddling with them. They behave themselves very well, and never pilfer near where they sojourn for the time. You may see the places where they have pitched tents; they have cakes and earthenware to sell, as our banditti have. Here the hedges begin to be as bad as ever, and the ugly-looking trees all pollarded.
A COUNTRY MYTH
From Shipton to Chapel House, 10 miles. This is a very large inn, stands upon a high situation. They can put up a troop of dragoons on their march. I numbered the windows in the front of the house, being 57. How many there may be besides I cannot say; we may suppose 30 more. It’s as civil a house as any in Britain; the landlord a very intelligent young man, who understands farming well. On this stage there are a great many small township lands, where they have a third of the corn grounds in grass banks. They say they do so for pasture for their cows, and a part they cut for hay. Here they study no conformity in their mode of labouring or laying out the fields. On the top of a high ground the road goes over about a quarter of a mile to the left; there stands a stone about 10 or 12 feet high. It is somewhat the nature of a mill-stone; it is defaced by time, but it has still a good deal of resemblance to human shape; and about 300 yards from it there are about 30 stones of the same nature, all standing on an end. The people here say this was a king, who with part of his army that had escaped slaughter were flying, but by some magical power of his followers were enchanted, and there they stand. I rode round about them and got the description from a man who was cutting hedges close by. This account they firmly believe, and they seem to pity the poor stone king.