GENERAL VIEW OF THE AGRICULTURE OF THE NORTH RIDING OF YORKSHIRE. 221-232. (1800)
DRAWN UP FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT.

JOHN TUKE,
LAND SURVEYOR.

"and he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together:" SWIFT.

CHAPTER XII,
IMPROVEMENTS.

SECT. I.—DRAINING.

IN a country of so various a surface is that of the district under survey, there is ample room for draining of every description. It is here, as elsewhere, found, that of all operations in husbandry, none pays equal interest for the capital bestowed upon it; none has a greater or more immediate effect; none so surely repays both landlord and tenant. Sufficient attention, however, has not yet been here paid to the great features of this improvement; neither to that of draining off the flood-waters, and excluding them from the lands, by opening out and clearing the rivers, and by judicious embankments; or of carrying off the rain, or surface-waters and upper springs, by means of under-drains.

It has been already noticed in chapter I. sect. IV. that 17,500 acres; lying on the banks of the Rye and Derwent, in the North and East Ridings of this county, are either greatly damaged, or rendered entirely useless, by the overflowings of those rivers. The drainage of this tract has been, several times in agitation; but a contrariety of interests, an injudicious mode of setting about the business, or the want of the active abilities of some individual, has hitherto put a stop to it; and, the undertaking seems at present dormant. Upon the Rye, and its branches, various embankments have been made, but never on a judicious or scientific plan; too contracted a space for the water has always been left, by which its force has been augmented, and weak banks rendered still less able to resist its violence; and no attention has ever been paid to straightening the course, and clearing out the bed of the stream. For want of similar attention, considerable tracts of land are injured on other rivers; but in no instance to be compared with the damage suffered on the Rye and the Derwent.

Bogs or mosses exist only on the moorlands, and chiefly on the highest parts of them. No attempts are likely to be made at draining these, nor can be made, till these wastes are held in severalty, which can only be done through acts of parliament; but acts of parliament are attended with too much expence for such purposes; and it is doubtful whether many of these would pay for the expence of improvement: they are too elevated to bear grain, and grass might not repay the cultivators.

*The landlord ought to be at the whole expence of draining, when the farm is held at will, and the farmer pay the landlord, for every pound he expends in draining, one shilling yearly, during the time he holds the estate.—J. Smeddle.

Under-draining has only been introduced of late years, and it is not yet so general as it ought to be, though the practice is rather increasing: in the northern part of the vale of York, and in Ryedale, it is chiefly to be met with, though instances occur in many other parts of the Riding. Without doubt, an improvement so highly beneficial would become general, if, where the land is lett at will, the landlord would join with the tenant in the expence, or agree, that, in case the tenant should quit the farm within stated periods, proportionate allowances should be made to him. Where the tenant holds his farm by an uncertain tenure, sufficient encouragements are frequently not held out in other ways, to induce him to attempt this or other expensive improvements*.

*Hollow bricks are very useful in draining, end ought to be made duty free. All improvements of this sort, ought to be done by the tenant, who can at a vacant time execute them at half the expence it would cost the landlord, the land being lett accordingly. So numerous and great are the advantages to be derived from hollow-draining, that they cannot well be described within the compass of this Report, nor can the various modes practised.

Black thorns are excellent, when cut in proper season, and laid in deep drains. Drains upon the late Sir CHARLES COPE'S estate, in Huntingdonshire, made by my father, in 1738, run well to this day. Ling, or heath, tied in faggots, is also very durable.—E. Cleaver.

The mode in practice in under-draining, is to begin with a cut along the higher side of the verge of the springy: ground, of a sufficient depth-to catch the spring, and lower down where necessary, to carry cross-cuts leading info a main drain, which conveys the collected waters into an open ditch, shore, or river. Of all materials for fillings drains, cobbles (pebble stones), are the best calculated for the purpose, on account of their inclination to be globular, and consequently to leave greater interstices than if of any other shape. When they are used, the drains, which are, at the bottom, of various breadths, from four to nine inches; are filled with them, to the depth of about half a yard, or more, if they are plentiful, according to the depth of the drain. Upon the cobbles, a covering of straw is laid, and over the last the turf, if in a grass-field; these together, prevent the loose earth from falling among the stones, and injuring the course for the water. If no turf be produced in making the drains, it must either be procured from a distance, or a greater quantity of straw made use of. And lastly, the remaining and upper part of the cut is levelled with the earth that came out of it. When stones not possessing the globular shape of the above, or common quarry-stones, are had recourse to, it is usual to make a small conduit, or tunnel, along the bottom of the drain, to convey the water, then to fill it to a certain height with loose broken stones, and finish off as before*; but such tunnel is always well avoided, as it affords a retreat for rats, moles, and other vermin, which injure the drain, and by burrowing, fill it up the passage designed for the water.

Wood is not often applied to the purpose of draining, because, though in many places plentiful, stone is in general more so; and though wood will perform its office equally well at first, drains made with it are more liable to decay, and if taken up to repair, cannot be renewed with the old materials; a disadvantage not found. where stone is used.

In a few situations, where neither of the above materials can be easily procured, hollow drains are made in the following manner: suppose a drain to be cut 1 1/2 feet wide at top, and three feet deep; at the depth of two feet, it is contracted to one foot; at the bottom of this, another cut is made, about nine inches wide, which tapers to the bottom, and consequently leaves a shoulder on each side, of the breadth of one inch and an half, and at the, depth of two feet from the surface; the top sod is forced in with the grass-side downwards, and being half a foot wider than the vacancy intended to receive it, is necessarily, rammed down very hard, and thus becomes capable of supporting the earth with which the remainder of the drain is filled.

This drain, where the soil is of a tenacious quality, and the field remains in grass, will last a great number of years; but there a danger, when ploughing, of the horse's feet breaking into the drain, and stopping the passage for the water.

Several other modes of under-draining, practised in other parts of the kingdom, are either here unknown, or recourse is never had to them, on account of the general abundance of stone, well adapted to the purpose.

A considerable degree of attention is paid, in most parts of the North Riding, to gripping (that is, open surface-draining) the ploughed land, in order to carry off the surface-water; but a general neglect of the grass-land prevails in this respect, the furrows of which are often filled with water, which is suffered to remain till imbibed by the earth, or evaporated by the sun and winds.

SECT. II.—PARING AND BURNING.

*"Whoever will attend to the quantity of earth in the sods, and the quantity of ashes produced from them, will lose his fears about the soil being lessened by this operation.
     "Supposing the sod to be an inch thick, not more than one-fourth part of it perhaps is soil; and this, so far from being reduced to bulk to an alarming degree, is perhaps increased in size by the action ofthe fire, which, by leaving it in an open porous state, renders it more bulky than the same soil, shook from the sods, and reduced to a perfect state of dryness only, would probably have been.
    "'I will not contend for the increase, nor will I at present admit that the soil is lessened by the operation. Different soils are acted upon in different ways, by fire. Clay burns to hard cinders, of the nature of brick, remaining in the soil unaltered by time; while the cinders of lighter soils are more perishable.
    "These effects of sod-burning do not appear to have been attended to: its use, in reducing tough sward, strikes every one; and its effect as a manure, in the cases in which it is usually applied, is here clearly understood by those who are best acquainted with its manner of acting.
    "Viewed in this light, sod-burning, whatever effect it may have on light porous soils, is, in all probability, a cardinal improvement of soils of a close clayey nature; and it appears to me a matter incumbent on every possessor of such soils, to try, on a small scale at least, the effect of a frequent repetition of this operation."—Marshall's Rur. Econ. Yorksh. Vol. I. P. 312.

THE opinions, both of landlord and tenant, respecting paring and burning, are very various and contradictory in thus country, as well as in most other parts of the kingdom; some asserting, that it is a most profitable improvement on old coarse grass-land, and injurious in no instance; while others, with equal confidence, maintain the opinion, that the practice is most destructive in every instance. In all probability, both parties may be partially right, the merit or demerit depending on the management and application; and the ultimate injury or benefit to the land, on the course of crops, and the mode of cultivation pursued. Where paring and burning induces the farmer to crop without mercy, as is frequently witnessed, there is required to renovate the fertility of exhausted ground, but the same would be required, were a system, equally destructive, pursued on any other land; consequently the blame is not in the practice, but in the avarice of the cultivator. Where the husbandry that succeeds paring and burning is judicious, no mode of improvement can be compared with it; for it is certain to produce great crops of turnips and grain, and these are certain means of future fertility, in the hands of a judicious farmer. Frequent, however, as this husbandry is, and widely as it is diffused through the kingdom, the principles of it are little understood any where; and attentive experiments have every where been wanting, sufficiently varied, to ascertain he amount of its merit*.

This mode of breaking up coarse rough turf, is practised in every part of the North Riding, but more frequently on the east side than on the west: it is performed with a "paring spade," which a man thrusts forward with his thighs, by the exertion of his loins, and which cuts the sods about one foot in breadth, and three feet in length: it is generally thought best to pare as thin as the nature of the turf will allow, so as that it may be clean cut up; but a rough spungy surface, admits and. requires a thicker sod than where the herbage is finer. If the weather is so unsettled after the paring, that the sods do not get dry when lying upon the ground, women and children are employed to set them on edge, to expedite their drying; .after which they are put 'into heaps, about the size of a small hay-cock, care being taken to lay them light and open within, but to cover close on the outside, to retain the heat, and prevent too rapid combustion.

Paring and burning is generally thought not to answer so well upon strong clay soils, as upon such as are less tenacious.

WILLIAM COOPLAND, of Aisenby, near Topcliffe, has communicated to me the following account of an experiment be made in paring and burning:

*An accurate experiment has certainly great weight; nevertheless, tough coarse turf ought, in my opinion, to be pared and burnt. If you do not, how do you quit all the tough coarse grass roots? Also, the land lies dead nearly a whole year.
     Old tough meadow, or coarse grass-land, may be much improved by being. thinly pared and burnt, and the ashes spread upon it. This mode of improvement is something like cutting quick hedges close to the ground, the young shoots, In the succeeding spring, coming healthy away. The meadows, or grass-land, managed as above, in the succeeding year will be covered with good herbage. 1 saw an experiment of this kind in Northumberland, near Nidley-hall.—J. Smeddle.

"From an accurate experiment I made some years since, I am confident, that. the best method of breaking up grass-land which has a tough, coarse turf; is to plough it, for the first time, just before winter sets in, to cross-plough it in the spring, and, during the course of summer, give it repeated, ploughings and harrowings, with large heavy harrows; to lime it well, and in autumn, sow it with wheat. The above method was practised on one half of a field; the remainder of which was pared and burnt: the result was, that the crops upon the pared and burnt land, after the first two or three years, kept gradually growing worse; and upon the ploughed ground, the crops for some years grew better, and afterwards were visibly superior to the pared and burnt land*."

*These observations on paring and burning evidently tend to shew, that it is not the burning, but the exhausting system of cropping, that does that injury, which, by superficial observers, is laid to the burning.
     This practice any be performed on the thinnest soils, for manure, and the surface-soil deepened, by ploughing up a part of the sub-soil, to great advantage.—Anonymous.

It does not appear from the above account, that the pared and burnt land had any other manure given it, though cropped for several years, than the ashes of its own produce; but it seems, though not fully expressed so, that it produced better crops, for the first two three years, than the land which was fallowed. What then but the ashes, caused the soil to be more free and generous in spending its powers of fertility for the immediate benefit of the cultivator, to the hasty impoverishment of itself? In my opinion, the experiment is greatly in favour of paring, and burning; for if the farmer does but make a generous return lot the plentiful crops which his land has produced him, there is no doubt but its fertility would be continued. The anxiousness of many farmers for present profit, induces them, when not restrained by their landlords, to crop without mercy; the pared and burnt land is frequently sown with rape, which stands to seed next with wheat; then oats, perhaps for two or three years. It is no wonder, where such is the practice, that paring and burning should be in disrepute, and especially with landlords. The ashes certainly make the soil very fruitful for a time; but if it be not supported with manures, but constantly cropped with exhausting crops, it becomes in a few years so spent, as to be little better than a caput mortuum*.

†These reports may be fairly reconciled, when we consider, that the difference upon the face of them may be the effect of the husbandry being good in the one case, and bad in the other; possibly the unsuccessful experimentalist might have suffered combustion to proceed so far, as to reduce the turf to a red powder, which circumstance alone, would counteract the expected fertility.—W. Fox.

||In regard to paring and burning, I am of opinion, that nothing contributes more to the improvement of an estate of maiden-soil, provided the tenant is not permitted to make too free in cropping it, for his immediate benefit, beyond Its natural course. I have pared and burnt, upon my different farms, near 1000 acres, and am persuaded, that there are not many farms that surpass mine, in the weight of the corn crops, after this process, which I have practised near thirty years, though I never ventured to pare it a second time, as very little ashes would be produced. I find no inconvenience when upon thin soils, because, after one, and sometimes two, turnip crops, the soil swells so, by being enriched, that it appears deeper than when first broken up. I allude to a piece of ground in my farm at Nunnington, called Calkless, which answers beyond all belief. On this bad land, I have reaped four quarters per acre of wheat, and, in one instance, forty-one bushels. I recommend the sods to be as lightly burnt as possible, and not consumed to red ashes. It is best to spread them as soon as burnt, otherwise the turnips and corn will grow in patches, and irregular; besides, if a high wind should come, it may blow all the ashes away which are in the heaps, although it would not touch those upon the ground.

In my survey, I saw a field in Ryedale, which was ploughed out of grass about twenty years since, one acre which was at that time extremely coarse and rushy, and was pared and burnt; the rest not. I was told by the occupier, the crops were uniformly better, whilst in ploughing, on the pared and burnt part, than on that which was not. The field has now been laid down to grass several years: that part which was pared and burnt, is now quite free from rushes, and is covered with a very sweet herbage, whilst the remainder is very full of rushes, and the herbage very coarse†.

Where the land is properly managed after paring and burning, it is generally esteemed, both by landlord and tenant, the best and most profitable mode of breaking up old coarse pasture ground; but where the management is opposite, it is much to be disapproved of, especially by the landlord||.

The best farmers sow, first, turnips, which are eaten upon the land; next, oats, but sometimes wheat, if the turnips are consumed in time; then oats again, and fallow the following year for turnips.

About the south-east corner of the Howardian hills, if the land be strong, it is pared and burnt as early in spring as the weather will permit, then fallowed and limed for turnips: this is found to be the best mode of management of that soil,

*In my opinion, it is particularly necessary to spread the ashes as soon at the heap is burnt; if this be neglected, the inside of the heap, from the fire dwelling so long in it, becomes a hard, red, and useless brick. If it not convenient to spread the ashes immediately when burned, the heaps may very easily be opened with a spade, in order to cool the ashes. The fire ought to be built upon a turf hearth in order to prevent the grass roots from being burned, viz. two or three turfs out to form a bottom for the stack.—J. Smeddle.

After paring and burning, upon all soils, except where too wet, turnips, or rape, for eatage, ought to be sown the first or second year; and it is the best mode to spread the ashes upon the land after it is ploughed, which may be easily performed, by throwing all the sods from the ridges of the lands, till they are ploughed; after which, the sods must be removed back upon the ridges, to be there burnt. During the burning, the furrows are ploughed, and then the ashes scattered unfortunately over the whole the additional expence is trifling; the advantages very great. When the seed is sown, it should be extremely well harrowed, that the ashes may be mixed with a sufficient quantity of soil, to retain the salts when they are dissolved by the rams, and form a matrix, in which the seed may vegetate; but the common practice is, to spread the ashes before the land is ploughed, then sow the seeds, and lightly harrow the land. In this case, the plants can derive but a very small degree of benefit from the ashes, which am buried under a firm sod, not lying close in all places to the ground, from which it was separated by the plough, which forms under-drains for the superfluous water in heavy showers to pass off into the furrows, carrying with it the solution of the salts which were contained in the ashes*.

It is from this method of sowing turnips, or rape on pared and burnt land, that the crops are often to be seen very partial and irregular, as the seeds have not had a sufficiency of loose mould to vegetate in, and few only of the plants have derived any benefit from the ashes.

†And equally beneficial will it be found in destroying the grubs, and other insects, that are so common in land wherein this cleansing manure is not used.—W. Fox.
  In paring and burning land, it is of great importance that the process be conducted, as to convert the vegetables into charcoal, not into ashes. This maybe effected, by burning the turf, as soon as dry enough to keep up a slow fire, from which the air should be excluded as much as possible. Vegetables, when burnt to ashes, are reduced to less than one-twentieth of their original bulk: these ashes consist of unearthy substances, and fixed vegetable alkali. When vegetables are converted into charcoal, they are little if at all, reduced in bulk. Charcoal consists chiefly of carbone; this substance enters largely into the composition of all plants, and when used as a manure, has been found, by some recent experiments, to possess a highly fertilizing quality.—H. M. M. Vavasseur.

*For those crops, the land should be either limed or manured.—J.T.
I should think the third crop would be best turnips, again followed with a spring crop of grain, and sowed with seeds.—J. Bailie.

Lime is extremely beneficial, when used either the first or second year after paring and burning† but though it may have the effect of making the land produce abundantly, yet care should be had, that, by a proper mode of cropping a considerable part of those powers be applied to the enrichment of itself; and to that end, I recommend a course of crops similar to the following:

First, turnips, or rape, eaten off; second, wheat, or oats; third, peas or beans, which should be hoed, or instead of them, a green crop, either of rape, or rape and rye mixed, to be eaten off, with sheep; or tares, which might be mown, either for green fodder, or to make into hay*; fourth, wheat; fifth, turnips; sixth, oats, with grass-seeds.

Or, first, rape, standing for seed; second, wheat; third, turnips, with manure and lime; fourth, oats, with grass-seeds, to remain at least two years in grass.