Stevenage: 24th April

Saturday morning, set out for Stevenage, 11 miles. This is but a small place, nothing very tempting. Very good inns, enclosures regular, fences now begin to assume the old appearance, a jungle of every kind; seldom or ever see a crow or crow’s nest. Have seen a great many sheep and cattle on their way to Smithfield market. The country here is a very plain level on both hands, and has the appearance of one continued wood. We see from gentle rises 30 miles to the west, the view to the east not so extensive. The soil here is pretty clayey, wheat and beans being the principal crop; few turnips anywhere.


From Stevenage to Biggleswade, 14 miles. This is a very long, ill-built town; there is only one stage house, but many small inns; there is but one principal street. This being the fair day, there were a great many people in town; the sheep all in pens by the sides of the houses. Here the speech is more difficult to understand than anywhere I have yet been. I asked some of the dealers if there were any cattle in the market, but they did not seem to understand my question. From Biggleswade to Bugden, 16 miles. On the way here I have seen some ploughs drawn by three horses, two behind abreast and one before. Here I put up at a second kind of inn, where all the drovers lodge. Along one side of the town street there is a row of elm trees, 30 feet high, and about seven feet distant from each other; they are dressed every year the same as a beech hedge, and every way in a line tops and bottoms. The hills here are all of a chalky substance, which is laid on the ground for manure, the same as lime or marl, but much thicker. They lay sixty carts per acre. It is very easy to come by, as being in every hill around. It is said to last a long time in the ground before being exhausted, but not quick in appearing. This being Saturday evening and pay day, a great many tradesmen and labouring men came in to smoke their pipe and drink ale. I overheard from a Corner where I was sitting they were strong against the Ministry for abolishing income tax, and laying a heavier duty upon malt and ale. On this stage I have seen a great deal of wheat on dry ground. They were folding ewes and lambs upon it. They say it pays as much to be eaten by ewes and lambs as any way else. If it gets rain soon after eating they will still have a good crop. The service it does to the feeding lambs is very great. All the trees here are pollarded, willows in particular; many thousands of them on marshy low ground cut over about ten or twelve feet high. There will be 160 sprouts growing round the top. Each of them shoots from ten to fifteen feet high, they have the very appearance of a painter’s brush, and have a fine regular look. The shoots are sold for hop poles or hurdles for sheep on turnip fields.

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