It’s the 15th of October 2017 and this is an interview with Trevor Strickland. Trevor, what’s your date of birth please?
Lisa And where were you born?
Trevor At Calbourne.
Lisa And are you from a farming family?
Trevor Yes, definitely.
Lisa How far back can you take that?
Trevor Um, well, early 1900’s.
Lisa And is it your mother’s side of the family or father’s side?
Trevor Well, yes, me grandfather. My grandmother was from a farming family but me grandfather, he, from my memory of what I was told, he spent a lot of his time digging gravel on the Island, before he went into farming, when he met me grandmother. And then they rented tenancy farms at Thorness … I’ve forgotten the name of the one now. I thought it was …
Lisa Don’t worry, it’ll come back. It’ll come back I’m sure.
Trevor Youngwoods I think was another one, and then we went to Fleetlands Farm at Newtown in 1918, as best of my memory is. And that was in the family … is still in the family actually. My cousin is there now but they also bought Pits, a farm in Calbourne in, as far as I can remember 1924, and then run the two farms as one, and then he also bought Fullersfield Farm in ’52, and run that again the same, but he also bought other land in between that as well, both those times. He bought some at Five Houses in the early ‘50’s, which is all still in the family until they gradually died off, and as I said, my cousin’s got, still got Fleetlands Farm, and I’m with Pits with my brother.
Lisa So what are your … you said you were born in Calbourne. Where exactly were you born?
Trevor Yes. I was born in one of the farm cottages, which was in Lynch Lane, which is still there, that old thatched cottage, but it was two cottages back in those days, but it’s now been made into one posh house. It’s no longer a farm cottage. Even though it is still called Pits Cottage. But that was sold off from the farm, like I said, years ago. That’s in the days when we didn’t need the cottages for workers.
Lisa So your father was a farmer?
Trevor Yes, yes, and his four brothers, apart from one that did work on the farm but he left and joined the Navy, well, just before the War started, and he spent all the War years, his War years, in the Navy, and he stayed on after and retired after, I think, 30 years, and then he went into the prison service as an ordinary prison officer, but when the job became vacant at the prison farm, as Manager, he applied for that and got that job, and he was there until he retired. So like I say, he … even though he left for those years that he went in the Navy, he did go back to farming in the end.
Lisa So what are your early memories of growing up on a farm?
Trevor Well I can certainly remember the horses, three of the pigs, Duke, Duchess and Warwick, and another three down at Fleetlands at the Newtown farm.
Lisa Were they heavy horses?
5 minutes 2 seconds
Lisa What sort of work did they do?
Trevor Well, ploughing, the grass cutting, the binder for the wheat, barley, oats, well, used for everything. My first memory of the tractors at the farm was the old Fordson Major, standard Fordson, but they had one, the first one I remember, my first memory of the tractor, that one, and then I can remember when they got the second one when the War was on, then, and then two of the horses went when they got the second one, which only left the one at Pits that was still used, taking mangles out to feed to the cows and so forth. Like I was saying, the tractor took over then with the majority of the work. And then ’49 we started getting a bit more modern with the later type tractors and … yes, and I can also remember the …in my, well early memories, when they used to come and thrash the corn from the ricks with a steam engine. I can remember all that vividly enough, but the family did buy their own machine, that’s the thresher, not the steam engine, in …well that was in the late ‘40’s when they bought that, that’s what I remember. Definitely by 1950 they had it, which is still on the farm now, but the combine didn’t, didn’t have a combine on the farm for several years after because they used to grow wheat, straw, right up until ’76, for thatching straw but then they’d already … yeah, the combine came along then, and then that was used until, well until me father passed on and his two remaining, both brothers decided that they wanted to call it a day as well.
Lisa What kind of farm was Pits?
Trevor Everything. Well and truly mixed. They had cows with milk obviously in the milk house …
Lisa How many cows?
Trevor I can’t remember exactly now, but we had the two herds you see. One was at Pits and one was at Fleetlands, but everything came to Pits, and it was bottled and so forth from there, and the tanker … well no, back in those days it wasn’t. It was before … that was when it used to be churns. The surplus milk used to go into the creameries, until such time as they brought the tanker and then the tanker used to come and take the surplus away, but we also had sheep. We also used to grow a lot of vegetables. When I say vegetables, that used to be potatoes and pretty well every vegetable what there was, as in sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, swedes, all of that used to go and that was sold on the milk rounds, together with the milk.
Lisa What kind of jobs on the farm did you help with when you were a boy?
Trevor Um, well everything. When we were cutting the cereal crops with the binder, that was one of the first jobs, was having to pick up the sheaves and put them in stooks in the fields. As they came out of the machine they came out … we were fortunate in the fact that we always had a carrier on the side of the binder which was used … me father used to leave it in six, seven in one heap, but some of the machines just used to shoot them out in a line and you used to have to gather them up then, which meant a little bit more work and so forth but nothing that … I remember doing all that and also with a hoe for hoeing out mangles, kale and the rest of it until such times as they had a machine that … with like a steerage hoe that they could use that, and do more rows at one go. What else did I do? I was definitely picking up potatoes, which … you don’t really forget about that in a hurry.
11 minutes 13 seconds
Lisa Why’s that?
Trevor Well it’s a back breaking job isn’t it? Spending all day bent over just picking up potatoes put them in a bucket. There we go, it was a job that had to be done. And then the threshing of the corn, that was another job. You said the boy’s job always used to be the dirty job in keeping the [inaudible] and that scraped out from underneath the machine that moving it to one side.
Lisa So were you expected to help out just because you had to or did you get a little bit of pocket money or …?
Trevor Well I can’t remember getting a lot of pocket money but I suppose we used to get something for the … yes. I started work the day I left school actually. Not intentionally. I got home from school thinking that I was going to be going out on me bike with me mates and as I got in the house me mother said, “You’ve got to go Fleetlands and drive the tractor for your father on the binder.” Because the land girl that they had at the time was going off with a boyfriend and I said, “Well I was going out on my bike” and she said to me, “You’ve got to go to Fleetlands to drive that tractor.” So I started not at school. I finished school and started work that night, but not continuous. I did have a bit of time off before I started officially at the end of the school holidays, yes. And I’ve worked there ever since. Well, all the time they were … it was a family farm. I worked there but since me father died I’ve worked outside at,well farms all over the Isle of Wight ever since then because of the amount of contract work that I could do, so that’s about it really.
Lisa Well we’ve been joined now by Mike and Colin is here as well, so Mike, what’s your full name?
Mike Michael Henderson.
Lisa And when were you born?
Lisa And where were you born?
Mike I was born in St. Mary’s hospital in Newport and then when I was two weeks old they allowed Mum out of hospital and I’ve lived in Thorley, just down the way from here, all my life.
Lisa And are you from a farming family, Mike?
Mike No, not really. The only link with farming would be my mother’s father, my grandfather Fred. He was a shepherd, and he was shepherd down at Newclose for a great many years. Even when he retired, he didn’t have sheep by then but he would ride the drill at sowing time, down at Thorley Manor, and he’d go off on his bike, do you know, gardening jobs and stuff like that. But he, he was a Dorsetsman and as far as I know he came from farming stock so to speak, moved to the Island, lived out at Chale, then met my grandmother and married her and then he came through to Thorley, and apart from a spell during the Second World War when he was a Special Constable, he worked on the farm all his life. But that’s my only real family association with farming. My other grandfather was in the Navy, although I never knew him because he died early, so yes, that is my one family connection, is my grandfather Fred. A lovely old feller. Cantankerous but by all accounts a very good shepherd, and he loved his sheep.
15 minutes 49 seconds
Lisa So you grew up in the countryside?
Lisa What are your boyhood memories of that? Did you ever help out on any farms locally?
Mike Yes, I suppose I started helping out at the age of about 10 or 11, down at Newclose, which is a couple of hundred yards from where I live. I was friendly with the family of the cowman at Newclose and he said, “Do you want to come and do a bit of bale cart, you know, hay time and harvest, stacking the bales and whatever, earn a bit of pocket money?” and I’d go in at every opportunity ‘cos you know, in those days money wasn’t as readily available perhaps as it is now to kids. My parents were … well my father was on a fairly low wage. Mum was obviously not working as such and brought up the family, so I thought well, yes, if I can earn a few bob, I’ve got it to spend. And I mean in those days you didn’t think about saving it. It was ‘I’ve got some money in my pocket, what can I go and spend it on?’ you know. Sweets, fishing tackle or something like that. We had a fad of going fishing and that, but yes, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it. I mean two or three of the kids in the family of my age would be down there, and we’d spend all day in the fields, you know? Quite happy to be out there at 9 o’clock at night when perhaps we should have been at home asleep, but weekends, summer holidays was excellent because it coincided with harvest, and I suppose that sort of set me up really, although I didn’t intend to become full time in agriculture. I wanted to be an electrician but I failed a colour eye test when I was in secondary school and by that time I suppose you know, I’d got the bug to work on the farm and so I ended up being employed full time at Newclose, when I left school. Took a pay cut, ‘cos when I was casual you know, at weekends and holidays, 3 bob an hour. When I started work full time I was down to 2s 6d an hour. That came as a shock but there, you’ve got to go through the system haven’t you?
Lisa What sort of machinery did they have then, there, at Newclose?
Mike Ah, we had the Fordson Super Major, that was when I was still at school but by the time I’d left school at 16, they also had one of the first Ford 5000’s that Ford produced and a little old grey Fergie, diesel, not TVA thank goodness because they has a down swept exhaust. It was enough to poison you at times, but it involved really quite a lot of manual labour. Bale cart, you had an elevator to throw the bales on and get ‘em up in the shed but you know, you’d stack the bales in the field, and then you’d be on a trailer while they were loading you with six or eight bales at a time, you’d build a load on the trailer, sit on the top of it and go back to the farm. You wouldn’t get away with that these days. And then drop ‘em off onto the elevator and two or three of them would be up in the barn, you know filling the barn up with straw, hay, whatever. Yeah, so …
19 minutes 41 seconds
Lisa What kind of farm was Newclose and how big was it?
Mike It was a mixed farm, it was dairy and … it’s primary function was dairy but of course they grew barley in the main as a cereal because they could use that for animal feed. They would mill it, add whatever they needed to, additives and that. Acreage wise, I don’t know. 100 – 110, something like that. Not vast but I enjoyed it and it was varied because you had animals. I did a little bit of milking under tuition of Eric the Cowman, you know, just to say I’d done a bit so to speak but after about 18 months, I’d worked it out that I preferred machines to animals so I moved another ¾ mile down the road towards Yarmouth to Thorley Manor Farm. I was 19 then I suppose and that was arable and beef. Primary job was tractor driving because it was mainly cereals. We did a bit of haymaking, did a lot of straw baling and I was down there for about 18 months and then I moved to Wellow, to the fields just down below where we’re sitting now and I was there for 46 years, tractor driving, doing maintenance, combine driving. I liked that, that was good. Yes, I’ve had a good life. I hit retirement age last year and I thought it was time for a change. I didn’t want … I didn’t feel I could carry on seven days a week, 80 or 90 hours a week. The old joints were getting a bit iffy now you know, I’ve had one replaced and I thought maybe it’s time for a change but I didn’t want to stop, so I moved to Shalfleet and worked for a Contractor doing very much the same as I’ve been doing all my life but my primary job of course is Sprayer Operator. So instead of upsetting folks around Wellow and Thorley, I now upset folks about Chessell, Shalfleet, Niton, Ventnor (laughs). I get about the Island a lot more than I did when I worked locally but it’s still a good life.
Lisa In your career then, you must have seen a lot of change in terms of technology with all the different equipment and machinery.
Mike Yes, I mean when I started in 1970, for arguments sake, down at Wellow Manor there, there was six of us full time, we each had our own tractor, we each had our own plough, cultivator, there were three seed drills and three sprayers and three fertilizer sprayers and then gradually as time went on, the horse power went up of the tractors, the work force became less. We went from six … after I’d been there about five years, we went to five full time and then a few years later we went to four full time and well in that time we’d gone from three 10 feet cut combines to one 17 feet cut combine which would outperform the three 10 feet by a mile and then the work force gradually dropped to three over the years. We then stayed with one combine harvester, reduced the number of tractors so we had one combine harvester with a 20 feet cut, three 150 horsepower tractors, and a couple of smaller ones to do a bit of spraying and fertilizer spreading and three full time and it stayed like that for a great many years and then the workforce was reduced to two full time with a third coming in harvest and autumn and that’s still the same down there now. But of course tractors got more efficient, more powerful obviously so you could pull bigger implements so you had less of them and the sprayer, I would have said 20 years ago now they’ve changed down there from two sprayers mounted on tractors to one self-propelled. That was 80 feet wide then, so that really allowed you to do 500 acres of spraying a day, just one machine. So that’s how, from my point of view, it’s advanced and it’s advanced to the point now where you’ve got combines that basically you push a button and it will steer itself, GPS, certain makes you can set up a set of parameters of how you want that combine to perform. Enter that into the computer and just sit back and you can read a book while you’re going up and down. All you’ve got to do is turn round at ends, but they keep saying … well there are driverless tractors about now. I think it’s more in America at the moment but I’ve always maintained that no matter how good a driverless tractor is, if it gets a problem, you need a person to go and sort it out so there’s always going to have to be somebody on the farm but I can see in the future maybe there’s a vastly reduced workforce and it will be a technician sat in an office that does the farming. I hope not because I think human input is vital for the industry. You know without it I think we’ve had it. But yes, I mean the amount of work that one man can achieve now is remarkable.
25 minutes 50 seconds
Lisa Just thinking back to Trev’s picking potatoes, are there still jobs that do have to be done by hand?
Trevor Well potatoes not any more, that’s harvested now aren’t they? Cauliflowers are harvested again aren’t they?
Mike That’s still …
Trevor They’ve still got to be cut by hand, haven’t they?
Mike Still got to be cut by hand and trimmed and then put on the conveyor and then there’s the packers in the trailer behind the conveyor machine. There is still a certain amount of manual labour, I think more so in horticulture than you know, the arable side of things. I mean you read in the farming press they’re worried about after Brexit, are they going to get enough seasonal workers in for the horticultural industry so there are jobs that will probably always have to be done by hand. Yeah, because I think a lot of it is down to, certainly with the cauliflowers, I mean they’re growing cauliflowers again on one of our fields and I was watching them a couple of years ago and after the machine had gone past, there were caulis that were there, either they were too big or they weren’t quite big enough. Well, unless you can get a machine that can accurately 100% you know decide, that’s right, that’s not, so I think you’re always going to need some human input. And they work hard in all weathers. I couldn’t do it now not at my advanced years and like Trev, I can remember potato picking and that was a back breaker. You were bent over, fill your buckets, stand up, tip it into the sack or whatever and then (laughs). Yes, that was hard work even for a nipper (laughs).
Lisa Thank you Mike. Colin, over to you.
Colin Yes, I don’t know what you want to know.
Lisa Colin, what’s your full name?
Colin Colin Graham Capon, if you really want to be precise.
Lisa And when were you born?
Colin That’s a good question. 1945.
Lisa And where were you born?
Colin Well that’s another good question, we don’t really know the answer to that (laughs). Somewhere … I was brought up at Great Briddlesford Farm but I think I was probably born in a Nursing Home in Wooton, Westwood I think it was called. I’ve never really asked too many questions about that.
Lisa So where was your early childhood spent?
Colin At Great Briddlesford, yeah.
Lisa And your father was a farmer there.
Colin No, my grandfather.
Lisa OK. And what kind of farm was Great Briddlesford then?
Colin It was a very much mixed farm. Mainly it was a dairy farm. I mean when we say dairy farm that was probably about 30 cows, pigs, no sheep, but corn, some arable like corn as well and we used to grow nothing very serious but there was always a few … everybody seemed to grow potatoes in those days for some reason. I think it was more for friends and relations at Briddlesford they …I don’t think they made any money out of it.
Lisa About how big was the farm then?
Colin There again, that would have been just over 100 acres, 110 I think Great Briddlesford was at that time, yeah, so they were all very much along those lines in those days, you know?
Lisa Do you mean across the Island, the farms were about that size?
Colin Yeah, there would have been obviously a few bigger ones but I think there were a lot of farms of that size, yeah. And there were so many milk producers, they were all small but, well not all small but in the main they were quite small ones and even down to about a dozen cows, that sort of thing you know.
30 minutes 9 seconds
Lisa So would you know about how many dairy farms operating then in the ‘50’s say?
Colin Well I can tell you … when I came here in ’69, there were 320 apparently but I think, and I was talking only recently to Alan Wheeler, one of the Island’s well know Vet in those days, retired now of course, and he said when he came here in the mid ‘50’s, I think he said there were 390 dairy farms. There were … again they were very small, but they were producing milk. Only perhaps six, eight, ten cows, those sort of sizes but nevertheless they were producing milk and they would have been classified as a dairy farm, yeah.
Lisa And how do you remember that as a boy, the milking and what the dairy looked like?
Colin Well there … the cows were tethered in what we used to call a milking stable, the cows were all tethered by a chain and in the winter months they would stay in the stable. I think they used to let ‘em out once a day just to get ‘em walking around in the yard, but if the weather is really bad, they would be in at night in the old stables and they would be a different diet completely to what we use today. They were … Trev was saying they would be fed on mangles. They used to grow a lot of mangles and kale, which again was all hand work. It had to be all harvested by hand, and hay of course. There was no silage or anything and sometimes bought in feeds … we used to buy concentrated feeds and sometimes beet pulp which was very good but that was the main thing. Everything revolved around the cows really and as Mike has said about the barley, we used to grow barley so that it could be ground up and fed to the cows and to the young stock as well. But it’s, I mean dramatic change in those years you know but that’s as I remember it and I can remember having ducks on the farm as well, a few Khaki Campbell ducks and the thing I’ve got a memory on was a horrible Rhode Island Red cock bird. I hated that thing and I still hate hens now and cockerels they frighten me to death and this blessed thing whenever it saw me it would make a run for me and I think there are still scars on the back of my legs now and I can remember my uncle carrying me through the rick yard one day … local people used to call it the ‘rickist’, that was the rick yard, bit of dialect there for you, and this blessed thing even flew up and I’d never tormented it. If I’d tormented the thing I could understand it but I was always terrified and the blooming thing flew up and even had a go at me when I was on my uncle’s back and granddad said at the time, “I think we’ve had enough of that thing” and that evening he went and pulled it off the perch and rung it’s neck (laughs) and it was like somebody lifting a … oh that was tremendous, I could walk around then without getting attacked by the blessed thing (laughs). That’s one of my early memories, not such a good one but not a fond memory (laughs).
Lisa Were the cows milked by hand when you were a boy?
Colin Yes, they were, they were milked by hand on the old three legged milking stool they’d sit. I think two on average, Trev might bear me out on this, I think probably a quarter of an hour, 10 minutes to milk a cow and on average about four an hour I reckon so at Beresfield there were always two milking and sometimes three and then we’d take the milk into the so called dairy in those days and it was only cooled by water that ran … you know we did have mains in those days. I don’t know what happened before they had mains water but the … milk you’d tip it up on this cooler thing. The cooler was like a surface cooler, the milk ran down the outside and the water would flow through the middle and you’d have to lift it up into what they called the ‘D’ pan at the top and you could regulate the flow of milk with a little tap and if it wasn’t coming cool enough, you’d shut it down a bit so that it went slower and a better chance for cooling. And then of course it was canned up in the old milk churns and we used to take ours to Newport in a van, I can remember that. And then years later, I think the creameries probably got fed up didn’t they with everybody who turned up with vans and lorries and everything else and so they then spent … put the emphasis on the lorries then coming round to collect it. I think it worked better for them. As they got more mechanised, they didn’t want all these vans and lorries and handcarts and things with a couple of churns, they’d rather have a lorry load in and they could mechanise the unloading then, didn’t they? But it was, yes, I can remember that clearly.
35 minutes 23 seconds
Lisa Did you do a milk round locally?
Colin I don’t remember that but apparently my grandfather did and my mother and aunty used to help with this milk round on the way to school. In fact I was talking to my mother who you won’t believe is still alive, but she is. When you look at me you think that’s impossible but she is still alive and doing quite well and she said they used to … on the way to school, they used to have to deliver the milk in Ryde, this was, and she said that they were inevitably late for school trying to deliver milk as they went (laughs). Yeah, and I think that when my uncle got a bit older, he was not very … I don’t remember him being impatient but I don’t think he liked the public much and people used to make an awful lot of fuss about the milk and he used to, he wasn’t very patient and I think he used to be quite rude and my grandmother said, “I think it’s best we pack the milk round up or otherwise there won’t be one to do(laughs) and they were going to lose it, you know because he was quite intolerant of these people who were so unreasonable, apparently according to him anyway. Yeah, so they did do that, yeah.
Lisa Would you remember how much a pint of milk cost back then when you were young lads?
Colin Trev would more than I would.
Trevor It seemed to me when I had to do a milk round I never wanted a milk round.
Colin No, I know you didn’t.
Trevor But because at the time the regular that had been working for me grandfather … well more or less since he was a boy, left and I had to go on with the milk round temporarily until they found somebody else to do it but I’m afraid that went on for 13 years before I could actually get back on the farm to do what I really wanted to do and as I remember, it was six ‘d’, not six ‘p’ a pint.
Colin That’s about 1 ½ pence in your language I think.
Mike Six old pennies.
Trevor And that would have been in the mid ‘50’s as I remember. Yeah, it would have been definitely mid ‘50’s and it would have been six pence a pint which is 2 ½ p in today’s money.
Lisa Were you making a profit on milk then?
Trevor Well, I suppose we all were otherwise … they always used to say that ‘cos if that was six pence a pint, as I say 2 ½ p in today’s money, it meant that the milk that was going to the creameries in the churns they were probably only getting like a penny a …
Colin Oh yes, that’s right. The buyers have always made a lot more money than the … same old thing the middleman makes the money and that’s still the same today, isn’t it? The buyers take the mickey out of the producers really.
Lisa So about what year did the creameries send out their big lorries for collections, the tankers?
Colin Well the tankers didn’t arrive here until the early ‘70’s but they used to send the churn lorries round before that but I reckon the tankers were early ‘70’s I would think. We had to change from cans to bulk milk yeah.
Lisa And about what time would you say people stopped hand milking and went over to machines?
Trevor Well as I can remember at Pits and Fleetlands, it was as the electricity came to the village which … they actually switched it on September ’49 and as I say, Pits was fitted with Gascoigne vacuum pump off the electric because of the mains but the farm at Newtown at Fleetlands, they didn’t put the electricity down there for a few years after Calbourne and they had a diesel engine to work the vacuum pump down there at the same time so … I’ve forgotten what the question was now that you asked …(laughs).
40 minutes 12 seconds
Lisa About what time did you change over to machine milking.
Trevor Sorry about that. That was the time that on our farms that it changed but the others could have been earlier than that.
Colin What dates?
Colin Yeah, I mean there were a lot still hand milking in the mid ‘50’s. I think at Great Briddlesford they probably… I would think I was about, yeah I reckon early ‘50’s they went to the milking machine. Again, we didn’t have electricity at Great Briddlesford until 1960 I think and that was definitely, like Trev said, the little engine that would drive the vacuum pump and it was what we called ‘milking buckets’ then. Every little unit you just had a little hose on it, connect up to an overhead vacuum line and that unit had its own pulsator and everything. And you’d milk one cow … most dairy’s had two or three units didn’t we, but of course years later those milk and buckets went and they had a direct line over to what they called a milk line so you had one pipe coming from the … to connect up to the vacuum and the other pipe would take the milk as well so it went from the cow straight through into the dairy and into the cooler or later into the bulk tanks of course. I reckon it was mid ‘50’s most of them must have shifted but Trev has a relation who was hand milking for a lot longer than that don’t you? Mrs Cosh.
Trevor Yes, she is cousin Amy who milked by hand all of her life and she’s still alive today, not milking by the way, and she’s 90, yes she was 90 last year wasn’t she?
Colin Yeah, and she … when did she retire from milking do you reckon? It’s longer ago than I think.
Trevor Well they still kept going even when …
Colin They did for a long time.
Trevor … for a good many years they used to still come and collect her milk even so she was milking by hand.
Colin And she used to tip it into a bulk tank and they’d suck it out but she must have been one of the last people on the Island hand milking, I would think so.
Trevor I would think so without a doubt.
Lisa So what do you remember about Newport Market? Can you tell me about that?
Colin Trev’s got a clearer memory than we have I’m sure.
Trevor No, because a lot of our stuff used to go direct to FMC you see.
Lisa What was that Trev, the FMC?
Trevor That was the Fatstock Marketing Company which was the slaughterhouse up at Heytesbury, just outside of Newport ,and that’s where all our lambs used to go. Occasionally we’d send some to Market but at that particular time we seemed to be getting a very good deal with the arrangement that they had there same as the calves. We used to take the calves there but then on the other hand sometimes they’d go to Newport Market. Pigs, well both places again although we never had that many pigs, we used to concentrate on the dairy for the milk round and the sheep, together with the vegetables. I remember the … no I can’t at the moment. You carry on (laughs).
Lisa Colin, what do you remember about the Market?
Colin Well I know it was every Tuesday (laughs) and can remember that and my old granddad, I mean hell or high water he’d go to the Market. Never buy anything, never sell anything but he had to be there and I used to annoy my uncle a bit sometimes when they wanted to get on and “Oh God, it’s Tuesday” but you know, in the old man’s defence he was … the poor old chap he wasn’t … he was in the First War and had dreadful dysentery and everything and it took him and I don’t think he was ever … only half the man that he would have been all his life, he was never very strong, so I think he was entitled to go to Market on Tuesday. But he used to see his old friends in the Market, you know, put the world to rights as we do here on a Sunday morning (laughs).
Trevor Well I think that was what the Market was mainly used for, wasn’t it, to catch up with all the news around the different parts of the Island.
Colin Yes, it was a social thing and what they didn’t know they’d make up (laughs).
Lisa So Trevor, you mentioned about the slaughtering of animals. I suppose that’s one thing that has changed a lot because that doesn’t happen on the Island now does it?
Lisa Can you tell me a bit about that?
Trevor That was thirty years ago that they closed that FMC slaughterhouse, and also the slaughterhouse in Scarrots Lane at Newport was closed at the same time, and that was … and there hasn’t been an official slaughterhouse on the Island since then, so that was thirty years ago now. Well, back in the spring actually, that they closed it all down. It should never of happened. It was the worst thing they ever did.
Colin Trouble is with the slaughterhouse … people are virtually the same today. If you send an animal to the slaughterhouse, they pay you when they like and they give you what they like. That’s the way it seems to be. I know it sounds an exaggeration but really they … Yeah. If cattle sure they’d obviously pay a bit more but … and that’s really why the Market, like the mainland markets… we’d send animals to Frome Market, but that’s why they have, the market is so strong really, because the slaughterhouses don’t want to pay a proper price, so everybody puts them in the market and then their buyers have to go to the market and they have to fight over them but at least … It’s not a very satisfactory way really. It’s sad the animals have to be slaughtered anyway but it would be much nicer if you could send them straight to the slaughterhouse.
Lisa Do you have any memories, could you tell me a bit about getting animals on and off the Island, when you were younger?
Colin Yes. I mean to my memory, I mean, is that there’s not much difference now. You just load them into a lorry, the lorry got on the Ferry. But Trev might remember when they were sending them loose, weren’t they, on the Ferries.
Trevor Yes. I can remember, well every year we used to send the older ewes for, to Wilton Sheep Fair, and then buy in another lot of young to carry on for the next season’s lambing. And back in those days they used be brought from Salisbury down to Lymington where there were holding pens. They used to be driven on to the boat on foot, down the main gangway at Lymington, and then they’d come off at Yarmouth, up the slipway, and there used to be holding pens there as well, that they… some of them used to stop there overnight in the holding pens. Some were loaded straight in the lorries but I can remember our own sheep on several occasions, coming off the boat or out of the holding pens and we used to drive them on the road from Yarmouth to Shalfleet to go to the farm at Newtown, but then that was in my earliest memories, but after that they used to be transported from the markets or the fair by lorry all the way to, back to the Island. They didn’t have to do that on the boat because obviously after they’d been off and crossing … ‘cos they used to have the compartment on the boats for actually holding sheep in these pens, at the side, well two sides.
Lisa What were the boats like then?
Trevor Well very much the same as they are now only a lot smaller obviously …
Colin About a quarter of the size.
Trevor Well I can remember some of those early boats in my memory were … about a dozen cars and they were full. But I can also remember not only as myself we’re talking about sheep, but I can remember cows and horses being brought across like that as well and being held in those pens on the side. Can’t remember those big fittings coming across though (laughs).
Lisa Oh Mike, this might be a question for you? One of the things we are interested in finding out more about is the landscape of the Island and all the different soil types that there are in different places. You’ve obviously worked in quite a lot of places. What sticks in your mind as sort of difficult soil, nice soil?
Mike Some of the real heavy clay lands that they’ve got down the way here can be a nightmare to do a decent job. If you try and plough them, if it’s too wet you batter it and you do more damage with your tyres than you want to and you can’t get it to turn over at a stand on end. We had it one year, a good many years ago, it had been quite wet and my then boss decided we would plough everything before we started drilling in the autumn. So, we ploughed and the heavy land didn’t turn over nice, it just stood on end so you know it had great gaps between each furrow, you could see down to the furrow floor and we got through the ploughing and then we had a really prolonged period of cold northerly winds and it baked that lot out and we had a tremendous job to try and get a tilth. We’d go through it with a power harrow. His idea was we would plough it … because he’d been persuaded to go in to combination drills, power harrow with a piggy-back drill on top, one pass, that was his thing. “You’ll do that in one pass.” Well it didn’t work. We were having to lift the cultors out the ground and go and do the heavy blocks and we’d do ‘em three or four times, cross them, you know just trying to beat ‘em into submission and you’d end up knocking a coconut into an orange size into an apple size, into …something like that and that was the best you could get. But because it was so lumpy and that, once you drilled it, you rolled it, you put the pre-emergent sprays on and all that. Anything that was nice light soil came up beautiful, but all those heavy patches you had nothing. Get the odd bit of weed grow through and of course in the spring it was full of weeds, thistles, whatever. But on that farm you had everything ranging from yellow sand to red clay that you could have dug out and made house bricks out of. And I think the Island is sort of …soil type is typified don’t they call it Bembridge Marl, I think? But yes, I mean over where I work now, over at Niton and Whitwell, there’s a lot more flint and some of the soil is very grey and it goes down like a powder. When you plough it and you work it down and I rolled some last autumn and I couldn’t see where I was going with a following wind there was so much dust coming off and it was so light and fluffy, that even after that 40 feet set of rollers had gone over, I’d get out and walk behind it and you’d still sink in with your feet about that far. Some of the land is peculiar, but I got used to the various types down at Wellow Manor there and we learnt over the years the fields that you needed to cultivate early and drill early in the autumn, because if it got wet, the best option was to leave it until the spring but then that meant you had winter wheat seed carried over and it didn’t always do so well the following year ‘cos of the dressings that were on it, so you know over time we learnt although I was talking to one of the lads that works down there coincidentally yesterday and I said, “Have you got Institute done yet?” “No” I said, “Well you should have that in first.” Nothing like telling them what to do when you no longer work there, but that’s the experience that I learnt … but yes, you go through the Arreton valley it’s all this lovely sandy soil that ploughs up beautiful. It can be a nightmare if it gets wet obviously, sand does tend to be a bit difficult if it’s really wet, but they can get it turned over and get a good control of weed seeds. If you can turn it over and completely bury the weed seeds the vast majority don’t survive. Whereas the heavier lands, I think people tend to go more for minimal cultivation, just work the top two or three inches. So, yeah, there is a considerable variation of land across the Island and there’s considerable variation across the land on most farms. I expect it’s the same country wide. But you learn the best way of dealing with it and by and large, you know it works out pretty well. It’s a case of learning through your mistakes, or learning from experience so there’s a considerable variation of land on the Island and every farm is different and they all have their own ways of doing things. The way that works for them so that’s about it really, dirts dirt but there are different sorts of dirt (laughs). Easy dirt and hard dirt (laughs).
Trevor That was the time I was talking about just now. That was in the ‘40’s that was, late ‘40’s that started.
Colin And it carried on until when?
Mike It was still there when I left West Wight, when I finished my schooling in 1967, it was still going then. And I did two years of winter day release at Newport Technical College. That ran from September to April, one day a week through basically the winter months and at the end of the two years, I sat City and Guilds Stage 1 Agriculture exams, passed those three. You had animal husbandry, crop husbandry and machinery and I passed all of those and then I tried to go to Sparsholt and I couldn’t get a grant so that was my final education, and I did better, I got better qualifications there because I failed all my GCE’s miserably, dreadful but by then I knew I was going to go to work and all I wanted to do was finish school and start to earn money, you know?
Lisa What were your wages in your first job?
Mike My first official pay packet for a 42 ½ hour week down at Newclose was five pounds 14 shillings and 6 pence, still we were still pre-decimal then and then obviously your tax and the insurance came out of that which wasn’t very much, and then I’d get home and I would pay my mother my wages for care and keep for a week and she insisted that I put some money away in the Britannic Assurance Company. I had to start a little endowment insurance. I think that was two and six a week and then the rest of it, I‘d say I got say three pound whatever, I’d work out that I’ve got to eke out for seven days. Cigarettes and beer (laughs).
Trevor Lisa, are you alright with milk, I’ve got sugar if you need it.
Mike So yes, but I can remember that it came in a little brown wage package with a series of punched holes so you could see the pound notes in there. You could see the money and the paper money was always the … the folding money was always to the front of the envelope where the holes were and the coins were behind and then it was just sealed over. Yeah, oh it was fabulous, the first official wage packet. I was quite chuffed with that. That was the basic working week. Then of course if you did overtime you got extra obviously and through many, many years after I was paid weekly, even for a good many years down at Wellow Manor here it was always weekly wages. Chesney Farrow, my then boss, my first boss down there, he always maintained, “Ah right, if a bloke does a week’s work for me he gets his wages” and then latterly after his daughter took over, when he retired, they then decided that we’d be paid monthly, direct into our bank account so … and that’s how it happens now. I mean I think everybody does it now so if you want cash, you go to the ATM. And I suppose it’s sensible, I mean you know you think if you were paid on a Friday morning, you’d have that wage packet with you all day, the chances of losing it were quite high. You wouldn’t leave it in the workshop ‘cos you never knew … if you weren’t in the yard you wouldn’t know who’d come in and have a wander round so you’d put it in your nammit bag, or in your lunch box. That’s where I used to put mine, in my lunch box ‘cos I made sure I never was without the lunchbox alongside in case … you couldn’t get parted from that, might go hungry (laughs).
Lisa Now you mentioned there, nammit. Another thing we’re interested in talking about is Island words and sayings.
Mike Well these two would be much more adept at that than I was.
Lisa But your generation probably know quite a lot of, that is dying out, so do any words spring to mind?
Colin Well, a nammit is definitely one, but I don’t know really. Some of them I thought were localisms and they’re not. The other thing that people apparently say locally, we say “well we’ll see you somewhen.” People from England as I call it, say “somewhen? When’s somewhen?” Sometime but not somewhen, so that’s definitely a localism I think. Probably have made more sense, but …
Trevor I’ll get around to it then.
Mike And as I mentioned earlier, rickets was the other one. Rickyard was called rickets for some reason. I can’t just think of any just at the moment but I probably will tomorrow when you’re not here.
Colin Like you do, yes.
Lisa Do you remember old men when you were boys, talking with an Isle of Wight dialect?
Colin Yes, different language really, yeah. Definitely.
Trevor Well I’m inclined to go a bit like it at times now. Like my Rebecca, she every so often, she’ll … well the other week when I was with her mother and her sister, who I don’t meet that often, and we were talking away there into the night then, and there was things that I kept on coming out with that I don’t realise that I say, but they were picking me up on, which is Isle of Wight sayings, but I can’t think of anything at the moment that I was saying, but they definitely, between them, were picking it out as I was saying it.
Mike I tend to massacre place names a bit. I mean there’s Swainston out the other side of Calbourne, and there’s Shalcombe just over there. Well that’s Shawcombe, and it’s Swanston. To me, that’s how I’ve always said it, and it’s wrong I know but people work out what I want.
Colin I think a lot of it is just laziness really don’t you think? They don’t speak properly. I don’t, I know. I think that that is a lot of it really. I mean it’s … they don’t ever say ‘isn’t’ it’s always ‘innit’. You know, I mean it’s just awful really, just bad grammar really.
Mike I think, yes, I think …
Colin We call it a cooler way of life but a lot of it is just …
Trevor That what you were talking about just now, that’s why at school, that was called the pre-agricultural course, and I reckon it started in about ’47, ’48, ‘cos I started that school in ’49 and it was already well established then, so I reckon you put about two years ahead of that and that’s about when it… ‘cos they built those two breeze block or concrete block classrooms for that didn’t they?
Colin That’s right, yes. It was the pre-ag block, yes, yes.
Trevor And I reckons that was about ’47, ’48 then, that they …
Lisa How old were you when you started there then Trev?
Trevor 11, ‘cos that was back in the … well that was it, you went to junior school didn’t you, primary school or whatever you called it until you were 11, and then you went to the secondary modern school which was …
Mike 11 plus, or if you were clever, grammar.
Colin Well I was at Yarmouth Junior School until I was 11 and then I went to West Wight. West Wight County Secondary Modern school and it had the little farm there and a few acres of fields, had a few cows and that and they also had a horticultural department there. They had quite a nice big glasshouse there. Joneser was the Head Teacher when I was there and Mr Landfeer was …
Trevor He came in the time I was there, Landfeer did.
65 minutes 14 seconds
Mike Not that I went there but I just know because of friends in Cowes, me and Rose was related to him.
Lisa Was it mainly boys that were on that course?
Trevor No, there were definitely girls there.
Lisa There were girls as well?
Trevor Yes, definitely (laughs)
Mike Clear memory on that …
Trevor Yes I have a very good memory of the girls up there.
Lisa Colin, did you always think that you would go in to farming?
Colin Well to be truthful, I was too stupid to do anything else really. I mean I didn’t get on very well at school. Reading and spelling are just two of my many weaknesses but you know I think, I blame … to a point I say blame, I don’t think my grandfather helped a lot because he … because I was so interested in what was going on outside, you know, poor old grandmother used to try and get me to read and everything and ‘course he had something else going on outside and I would be keen to get out there and I can remember a conversation with her once. In those days, the other thing is we didn’t have any refuse collection right down in those remote parts and they used to dig holes and bury the tin cans. There wasn’t a lot of waste because a lot of stuff went back on the fire, whatever, but tin cans, if there was any dog meat cans mainly, that was the main thing, they used bury them and I remember digging this big hole one day to bury all these cans and it was a bit dangerous thinking about it. It was very sandy there and a wonder it didn’t fall in on me. Anyway, I remember digging this huge hole and after … I suppose it a was a long the same time my poor old grandmother was trying to help me with spelling and reading and things and she said, “Oh dear” she said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do when you leave school” and the old chap piped up and he said, “Well he’s good at digging a hole” (laughs) so not really the answer she wanted or the encouragement … so there was nothing else really for me but having said that, when I got to school leaving age, I was very awkward, and I said I thought I’d like to go in to the Forestry Commission. I think they were all quite staggered really to think I wouldn’t do anything else. Well I did that and quite honestly I enjoyed the company, the men were fine, but the job was awful. It was so laborious, just awful. It drove me crazy and I thought that after I’d been there a few weeks I’d chuck it in and go back. They said, “Oh no”, you made the decision to do it, you stick it out” and I did for quite a long time but I didn’t like it.
Lisa Where were you working and what were you doing?
Colin At Parkhurst Forest. It was planting trees, you know, and clearing land, well lots of brambles and gorse bushes and all that sort of thing to plant timber and in a way, looking back, you know I think I did learn a few things that have been of some use, you know, but …
Lisa So you didn’t want to go into farming? What did you actually want to do then?
Trevor I wanted to get out on my bike. I’m going out in a minute.
Lisa On your bike?
Lisa What motor bike or bicycle?
Trevor No, I’ve done both but from the time I left school, or before I left school, I was always dead keen on cycle racing and I wanted to be a cycle mechanic, that is what I would have liked to have done, but I didn’t really get a choice, it was you work on a farm and that was it.
Lisa It’s a good way of getting round the Island isn’t it, on a bicycle.
Trevor Well I spent a lot of time racing, well from the time I left school right up until I was in my 20’s, but I stopped it in the end because I just couldn’t get the time off from work, because if you want to do it and do it reasonably well, you’ve got to do a lot of training which means a lot of evenings you’ve got to go out during the week and so forth training for the racing at the weekends and like I say I did it until in me 20’s and then with the pressure of work and so forth, they didn’t like it, me keep on going off evenings training, so in the end I stopped it. Well it made it difficult … well that’s when I got lumbered with the milk round. It was making it difficult for me to get to the Mainland weekends to race so in the end I stopped doing it but everything seemed a bit sort of empty and that’s when I went over to motorbikes then and started doing the trials and scrambles as it was back in those days. ‘Cos obviously you didn’t need the training hours during the week for that. It was just a question of … yeah so I did that for well, umpteen years because like I say it didn’t interfere with work although I couldn’t get to the Mainland because I used to do the same with that, as go to the Mainland and race you see, so the others, me mates that used to do it, used to get off a lot more that what I did because I couldn’t get the time off work.
71 minutes 10 seconds
Lisa Well we’re here today, it’s a Sunday, the tractors are going outside. It’s a seven day a week job isn’t it?
Trevor Well up until … well not many years ago actually, I’d have been out there with that lot, doing it, because this firms that doing this now, I did work for them for 10 years.
Lisa What have you enjoyed most about farming?
Trevor I’ve enjoyed it all really. Yeah, some of the … back in the early days that we’re talking about with the thrashing and cutting the corn with the binder and so forth, that was hard work that was. It was alright ‘cos you had to do it but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it but latterly when it came with the balers and … it was more enjoyable then ‘cos by that time it had got more mechanical, you know. The sweat and graft had come out of it, but it was still hard work, yeah, but it was more enjoyable work was what it was … like I say at the end of a pitchfork and potato digging, that was back breaking that was (laughs). But you had to do it.
Lisa What do you think’s changed most in your lifetime in farming?
Trevor Well, as we were all talking about just now, the automation of it all. Whereas … well back in my early time, we had a staff of seven or eight working whereas now two is about the most that you need. You can do everything with … I know sometimes you need the third hand as Mike was saying when he worked at Wellow farms, that … it’s alright, you can … two can carry on a farm quite easily. Well one can up to a point but they’ve got to get somebody in to help with many of the jobs.
Lisa Do you think the farms themselves have changed very much?
Trevor Well yeah, that’s the other thing is you’ve got a lot … well that’s because of the automation isn’t it? The buildings are that much bigger now because you’ve got to have room to operate the machines in them whereas years ago everything was that much smaller because everything was done by hand. So yes, there is a definite change that way, the size of the buildings for less people to work in because of the machinery.
Lisa Would you say there are less small farms now than there used to be?
Trevor Yes, definitely. What smallholdings there used to be, the majority of them now are privately owned people with horses and that sort of thing so yeah definitely the answer to that. ‘Cos this farm here was a Council smallholding you see but they … I don’t know how many there was on the Island, several, you know literally all-round the Island, that eventually they were all sold off as Colin bought this one and there’s one down the road from me at Langbridge. Well that’s an Architect that bought that so the same again, the buildings were converted, well he’s got one converted into his office and originally when they did it, they did a piece on the end so that they could summer let which they did to start off with but that fell by the wayside. I suppose they couldn’t be bothered with it but I don’t know really.
Lisa Do you think some farms have had to diversify to stay …?
Trevor Oh definitely, to keep going. I miss the milking, well I did at the time, I don’t now.
Colin Sorry about that chaos (laughs). It’s mad here isn’t it? Thank you, I’m sorry about that.
Lisa That’s OK.
Colin Sorry have I come in on the …
Lisa No. Trevor was just saying he misses the milking.
Trevor No I did. I don’t anymore.
Colin I think, there’s something … it’s just the routine really I think that we miss don’t you as much as anything. I had a girl here many years ago, Fiona, that used to help look after the children when they were small and she sort of took a plane to China and made her way back through China and she said that she would always used to look at her watch and do the interpretation into what time it would be here and think ‘oh, they’ll be milking now’ and occasionally it might be … she went all round the world, but she occasionally used to get the 6’oclock bus pull away, you’d never hear it if it didn’t stop, and Fiona would arrive. She said, “I knew you’d be here” (laughs) a very stabilising sort of thing really you know that whatever happens, hell or high water, it’s going to happen isn’t it? There would be somebody doing the milking.
Lisa So have you still got animals Colin?
Colin Dairy, yes.
Lisa How many cows have you got?
Colin 80 or 90, or something like that. Yeah, I don’t do much of the milking, Marcus does a lot more than me, most of it, well pretty well all of it I suppose. I do go in to give him a bit of a hand, you know, but he’s mainly the key man (laughs). Since we changed the milking parlour, about four years ago, I did most of it until then and he sort of took over the … when we changed the system he obviously got to grips with it quicker than I did and so that’s what he’s carried on doing it.
Lisa I asked Trev what do think has changed most about farming in your lifetime?
Colin Well I suppose the amalgamation of farms makes it all much bigger. I suppose that’s the big thing really. And not that many small farms are open any more.
Trevor More or less what I just said wasn’t it? ‘Cos everything’s got that much bigger.
Colin Yeah, that’s been since the beginning of time I suppose that’s always happening but I can remember when I came here, they were talking about 100 cow herds, and then 200 and now they’re talking about thousands and a chap up the road, Andy Turney that came here in the early ‘80’s, so they had 800 cows up the road in two groups, 500 and a 300 basically and now he’s down in Dorset in partnership with another man and I think they’ve got 2000 cows. It doesn’t seem right to us ‘cos the cows are just a number really, you know. They were very well looked after, you can’t say otherwise but poor old things you know.
Trevor I t’s not individual like it used to be is it? Christ doesn’t that thing smoke. You’d think it was a train coming up here.
Lisa When did you come here Colin, what year?
Lisa ’69. And you bought the farm did you?
Colin No, I was a tenant then. Came here as a tenant and then was able to buy many years later.
Lisa What’s it called, the farm?
Colin Shalcombe Holding.
Lisa And how many acres have you got?
Colin About 100 and something, 103, that’s here but we’re able to rent a lot more.
Trevor But you’ve added to this in the time that you’ve been here.
Colin Yeah, when I came it was 40 acres and then I managed to buy the farm next door so yeah, when you look back and you think we should have done this and we should have done that but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Trevor Well, we’re all like that aren’t we?
Lisa Were there more opportunities to buy farms back then?
Colin Yes, it’s gone a bit silly again. I think because things are a bit dodgy in the City. City people tend to put their money into land and then of course that makes the entrance fee so high for anybody trying to get in to farming. It never balances up does it? The amount you have to pay for land to what you’d earn was just investment really because you know they … nobody is going to make any more land and it will eventually hold its value, but it will go up. But to try and farm it for that is just … you wouldn’t be able to do it. You just couldn’t do it. I mean some land with a good set of buildings on it, farm buildings, a nice farmhouse, I mean a nice house you know they’ve been making sort of £10,000 an acre on it. Well, there is no way in the world that you could go and borrow money at £10,000 at our age, you wouldn’t be anywhere near it. I don’t know what the cost of borrowing money is these days, I know it’s not a lot but you’d never be able to do anything with it, just wouldn’t work. I don’t know how young people trying to get in, I just don’t know unless they can find somebody that would … a tenancy, you know to tenant a farm, rent a farm. I don’t see how they could get a start really.
Lisa So looking back then and thinking about the farming year, what’s your favourite time of year?
Colin Well that’s a good question. I think we all look forward to the spring because after the winter routine with the cattle it’s nice to have it a little bit easier ‘cos the winter routine is when most of the cattle are in off the fields and they have to be fed and everything they eat has to be, you know, when you can shove ‘em out into the field and they go grazing for the day, it’s a lot easier than having to dig out a lot of silage and bedding them up and all that sort of thing and scraping up all the muck and everything. Yeah, that’s a lot less to do in the summer and you get a change of jobs in the summer months. But the thing that I think we probably dislike the most is if it’s really sweltering hot weather in the summer ‘cos we know it’s not good for the cows, they don’t like these extreme temperatures. We don’t like it either do we Trev? Like severe winters, those that are really severe, I think it’s the weather plays the biggest part really but I think we like all times of year really. Spring is always nice.
Trevor I always used to like harvest .
Colin Yeah, that’s right. The nice daylight hours, we enjoy the long daylight. The darkness is a thing about late autumn and winter, the lack of light really. I think, yeah I think we always enjoy whatever the season is really.
Lisa What about the Island countryside? What do you like about that? What do think is special about it?
Colin I think it’s the variation of it isn’t it really? You know if you go to see the other side of the Down, over to the Military Road and everything, it’s quite different soil type, and the landscape is quite different. If you go over to, like here in the West where we’re quite exposed so you haven’t got a lot in the way of woodland but if you move down to Newtown where it’s more sheltered and then go back towards Wooton and Havenstreet, a lot of old oak woods aren’t there so it does vary a lot and I think it’s lovely because of that, isn’t it?
Trevor The Island’s a beautiful place really.
Colin The wonderful Down land, beautiful. I keep cattle on the Downs and I often think when I go in the morning to feed them, I still feed them in the summer as well, only concentrates, just … it’s like sweets to them so that when they get out I’ve only got to appear with van and a bag and they follow me. That’s the real reason because there’s a footpath there and people do leave the gate open, but when I’m driving up there to feed ‘em in the mornings, I’ll have a magnificent view right down to Christchurch and Weymouth and places like that, it’s fantastic. And I think well why does anybody ever want to go anywhere in such a beautiful place as this. It’s just so lovely I think. I’ve only been abroad a couple of times I suppose and that was in France and Belgium, Holland I couldn’t see there was much there to rave about really so yeah, I think it’s a great place and I think we want to stop building all these houses over here before we ruin it for everybody.
85 minutes 58 seconds
Trevor Yeah we’re fortunate in Calbourne that we haven’t had a lot of new houses built, not compared with Brighstone and well Freshwater and that.
Colin I mean when I came here, this road, obviously there was a fair bit of traffic on this road but now, because they’ve done so much development work in Freshwater, they’ve developed the old school and oh my word … of course there’s Tapnell Farm that now is a big play barn complex for the children and huge it is really and it’s a great success and good luck to them but it puts so much extra traffic on this road and you know the new development up in Freshwater must be quite something because I can go off in the mornings look, keep cattle up the road at Lodge Farm in the barns in the winter and I come … if I leave there at seven in the morning, I’ve done it many times I can easily count just driving back from Calbourne with the tractor, doesn’t take me many minutes, probably not even 10 minutes, I can count 30 cars going towards Newport in that short space and you know that’s tremendous to what it used to be, it really is. Yeah, I mean it’s a beautiful place but I think that the powers that be need to realise that you can’t go anywhere on the Island. We’ve got a boundary. You can’t spread out any more and I think that the network just can’t cope with the roads. I mean they’re only glorified cattle tracks really when you actually analyse it, they’re not anything that was ever set up, no motorways as such. Not that we want them but they’re only old cattle tracks that have just been made a bit wider and they’re just not coping with it. That’s to say that the Hospital and the infrastructure generally just cannot cope with it and I think it’s … but the sad thing is that these people that just don’t want to see it or something or other, I don’t know. There we are. There’s not much we can do about it, only grumble and groan, nobody takes any notice of us anyway (laughs).
Lisa What sort of wildlife do you see in this part of the Island?
Colin Well pretty well everything there is I suppose. You see squirrels, badgers, foxes, you know. The bird life has changed. That’s changed tremendously in the years I’ve been here. When I first came, probably about 30 years ago, somebody said to me they’d seen a buzzard and I’d never seen a buzzard before. Didn’t realise … my grandmother used to tell me they did exist up at the Rowridge by the television mast on that area, but otherwise you never saw a buzzard. Well now, they’re everywhere, just everywhere and I think really there are beginning to be too many of them because I think they clear up a lot the squirrels and things like that. I don’t know that but I would imagine they did. And the other thing were seeing a lot of now are raven. Lots of pairs of raven around here. It’s something we wouldn’t have believed before. I mean the only place where I ever saw a raven before was the Tower of London. That was when I was about 10. I don’t know if the same ones are there (laughs).
Lisa And did you see things when you were younger that you don’t see now?
Trevor Yeah, I haven’t seen a hedgehog in years.
Colin I’d say the hedgehog definitely. I’ve not seen …I can’t remember the last time I saw one.
Trevor And the other thing is there’s nothing like the amount of swallows now to what there used to be.
Colin I don’t know why that is.
Trevor No, I don’t.
Colin And like the hedgehogs, I don’t know what’s happened to the hedgehogs. The badgers are definitely on the up. There’s badgers … well I tell you why I know this because in our maize, they love the maize cobs and they bear the plant down to eat the cob and the dams we’ve had this year is incredible. Amazing amount of cobs they’ve taken out so there are a lot of badgers around, must be. And at Seaton you can see where they’ve been. Foxes of course, always loads of foxes but apart from the hedgehog, I don’t think [phone rings] … oh let that go on,
Trevor No the hedgehog is the most noticeable I think.
Colin Can’t think of anything else that we would have seen that we don’t any longer. The owls are quite good still, quite strong…
Trevor Yeah, I quite often see barn owls.
Colin … heard one this morning when I went out, but yeah, I can’t think of anything else that we … apart from the hedgehog.
Trevor Hedgehog is the main thing. Of course hares thinned right out didn’t they but there again that goes back to your buzzard, doesn’t it?
Colin We think that buzzards pick up the leverets and I’ve noticed, only in this last year or so but the rabbit population is beginning to build again. There’s quite a lot of rabbits around, but for a lot of years, I would say 10 or 15 years at least, the rabbits, well there weren’t many rabbits at all and we thought that was probably due to the buzzards and it might but there are quite a few around now again I notice. It’s all much about the same I think.
Lisa Continuity and change. Somethings stay the same don’t they and somethings change.
Colin Yeah, that’s right. It’s quite amazing where all these buzzards have suddenly come from, I don’t know why, what has changed that has helped them but they … not so much these days but we used to have lots of bits of land that we could cut hay off or silage or grass or cut grass whatever you did with it and various places in the West Wight you could always see buzzards, you know in the summer months particularly and you’d see ‘em soaring up in the sky. And we know they clear out partridges ‘cos I remember down at the field down the back of the quarry, many years ago this is, I remember being on the … we were there on the Friday cutting and it came on to rain and there were the parent birds, the parent partridge with a covey of, well I couldn’t really say,16 or 18, difficult to count them when they are little chicks moving around, and it stayed wet over the next day, dried up on Sunday and went back on the Monday and I saw these parent birds and there were about three little chicks. I thought well that must have been the wet weather I suppose, I know they don’t like it wet, and no sooner thought that and a buzzard came in and picked ‘em up and they cleared the lot out. That’s where the other two went as well.
Trevor Of course that is another thing that there’s not the amount about now is partridge apart from your red leg, game partridge because they are bred to shoot anyhow but …
Colin The grey partridge, yeah.
Trevor … you don’t see many of them about now and haven’t done for several years.
Colin I think the other thing I suppose that’s been in huge decline … I don’t remember, I’m sure Trev would remember that the hares used to be a big pest to them and they used to have these big organised hare shoots …
Trevor Yeah they did, I’ve been on them years ago.
Colin … and they’d shoot hundreds of them wouldn’t they and they used to walk in a line, didn’t they, half way across the …I think that … how did it work?
Trevor Yeah, I don’t hardly …
Colin Tell Lisa how it worked, I can’t just know ‘cos I never went on one but I mean it was a very organised thing wasn’t it?
Trevor Yeah, and you had to keep to the line too.
Colin They had two lines and you started one line at Calbourne and another one right out at Freshwater way and just walked together. Walked towards one another and the hares would …then the poor things got shot but there were so many of them, they used to shoot hundreds of hares. I’ve seen photographs and heard stories about it but I mean we like to see the hares now, there’s not many of them really. But what happened to the hares? It wasn’t because they were shot, there was something else went wrong with it and they just sort of, well they didn’t die right out but …
95 minutes 27 seconds
Lisa Why were they shot? Were they a nuisance?
Trevor Well back in those days, yeah, but there was a tremendous amount of them about. Almost as many as them about as what there was rabbits.
Colin And they were a big pest to the farmer trying to grow crops.
Trevor We are talking about several years ago.
Colin Trying to grow crops when you’ve got, you know, hordes of rabbits and hares is … well you’re just banging your head against a wall. You know you sow a tiny seed and as soon as it comes through to the surface, they nip it off. So it was really bad in the days when like my grandparents were farming, before the time of myxomatosis, the fields … unbelievable the amount of rabbits and especially at Great
where those wooded areas ‘cos they would like that. They’d live just in the hedges and the banks near the woods and I mean sometimes the field was all a move with rabbits. And then of course they brought in myxomatosis …
Trevor Yeah that was early ‘50’s.
Colin That’s right, it was a horrible thing and the whole countryside was a horrible stench when that was around because it was all dead and dying rabbits. It was absolutely awful, just dreadful. But that must have been the one thing that saved the day really ‘cos sometimes trying to grow crops of corn, they just … well they’d creep out onto the headlands and the headlands got bigger and bigger didn’t they? They would almost meet in the middle in some fields. The rabbit damage was amazing, unbelievable you know? I know that … as I say we say , “Oh, that dreadful myxomatosis” and it certainly was, but unless you could do something about the rabbits you had a big problem. We used to put netting round the fields didn’t we, wire netting to try and keep them back, try and control them, but it was a very difficult thing and some farms in those days, there was one I think it was Merstone Farm, my granddad used to tell me they could have bought it, bought it for £5 an acre because the rabbit damage was such you just couldn’t do anything with it, so all that made it a huge difference. But of course, in the War, they used to use the rabbit meat, they used to talk a lot about the rabbit meat so I suppose there was a plus side but …
Trevor Well my father, he used to go out with a long net, rabbiting. After he’d finished work, this is during the War years, after work he’d go up on the Downs and catch the rabbits to take down to Calbourne Station on the train to go to Portsmouth to a shop over there and I think he used to get six pence per rabbit , back in those days in these boxes. They made boxes especially to put them in and take them over. In fact I’ve haven’t got it in this car but if I had me other car here, I’ve got one of the labels with his writing on that was made out to go on one of the boxes that went over there. Queen Street in Portsmouth that was the …and I think it was number 63, and it was a shop there which used to help out with the pocket money I suppose back in those days.
Colin I don’t know if you know what a long net is really do you? It’s like a fishing net really. It would have been about a metre high in your language, I suppose …
Trevor Not quite as much as that I wouldn’t have thought.
Colin … they used to run this … I’m not quite sure how they did it but I imagine if the rabbits … they would always favour a particular area wouldn’t they, where they had their burrows. I suppose they would creep out and I imagine the idea was to creep along between where they … if they run into a particular hedge, when the rabbits were feeding out in the field in the middle of the night when it was dark, they’d run this net behind them and then they’d walk round. The rabbits would try and run to their burrows and they’d get caught in this net. Like a long fishing net really.
Trevor Because they used to put it, as I remember, sort of on the curve …
Colin Half-moon and they’d pick up what they called ‘clean rabbits’. Shot rabbits, well you’ve got the shot in them but they used to like ‘clean rabbits’ always demanded a better price. But of course it was good meat but I don’t think …
Trevor It was.
Colin …yeah there’s nothing wrong with it but I don’t think there’s a lot of protein or anything in it. You’d have to ‘Google it’ these days but I think you’d find that there’s not a huge value to rabbit meat. I don’t think there is, it’s not like anything else, not like beef exactly.
Trevor Well we were brought up on ‘em, all through the ‘40’s, ‘50’s it was well, your main meat, back in those days.
Colin A bit like chicken, a very white meat. You might have eaten rabbit, people do eat rabbit but the myxomatosis put people off.
Trevor Yes it did, it put me off (laughs)
Colin I don’t want to eat rabbit thank you. It definitely put people off.
Trevor To be honest, I don’t think, I know you don’t know what you’ve got in these burgers, (laughs). I don’t think I’ve eaten any rabbit since.
Colin Ignorance is bliss when you’re eating burgers (laughs).
Trevor No I’m afraid when that came in in the ‘50’s, that really put me off.
Colin Yeah, it did a lot of people. You don’t see … I don’t know in the Butcher’s shops these days I don’t know if rabbit counts as game, I don’t think it does, but you don’t see rabbits do you these days?
Trevor Not hanging up, not like they used to. I used to get people, when I was doing the milk round, they used to ask for rabbit. Well, I used to get them for them too. It’s all nice clean looking meat isn’t it, but then so is rat come to that.
Colin It’s like chicken I think, a white sort of meat.
Trevor Yes, it is white, yeah. Now when you said to me about it just now about the missing the milking and so forth, you see I didn’t stop milking out of choice, it was more of less forced on me because it was after my father died and as I say the other two brothers decided that that was it, they wanted out, and at the time I didn’t know what I was going to do, but it did take me a long time to get that out of me system. I know I could have got … I could have gone and got a job I suppose, milking somewhere, but at the time what with me father dying quite, well, fairly quick, and the farm coming to an end, it took me a little while to get over it. You know, the fact that he’d gone and I was out of a job as such, and it did, it took me several … well I was going to say months, it was longer than months to actually get that out and I did get a job. Not one permanent job but I did have, I went from job to job sort of thing and I’ve survived it since, but it did make a big hole at the time, whereas if it had been a decision I’d made myself, that I thought I’m fed up with milking, I don’t want it anymore, it might have been a little bit different to what it was, but there you go.
Lisa So are you going to carry on Colin? Or is retirement looming? Do farmers ever retire?
Colin They expire more than retire. No, I mean so long as I can keep doing it I will, yeah. I’ve got no other interest really. I’m not interested in golf or fishing or shooting or anything (laughs). I’d like to be interested in something else but I’m just not … about 10 minutes of anything else I think it’s boring so it’s something I really like doing really I think.
Lisa Do you think it’s in the blood?
Colin Well I suppose it is or you get used to it, I don’t know what it is but it’s a very fulfilling job really. I mean, you know it’s like gardening isn’t it, you put in a small seed and then a few months later your harvesting some perhaps decent lettuce, well not months for lettuce but you know what I mean, beans and peas and all those wonderful things that you can grow and eat and it’s the same with the farming really. Sowing some grass and then a few months later you’re cutting it for silage. You feed that to the cows and they enjoy eating it and they do milk well on it and all that sort of thing so it’s very fulfilling really. Then you get a baby calf born and you rear it up and then two and a half years later, you might be milking that one as well and it’s just a complete cycle really. Yes, it keeps us going. I mean I don’t know when I will get off this merry-go-round ‘cos it’s like even last night, we had a couple of nice heifer calves born and I thought oh, that’s great and then I thought well I don’t know, how much longer are we going to be doing this job for, so it’s a difficult on really. Difficult to imagine stopping, which is , I suppose once you make the break, but to consider winding down and stopping it’s just not within us really (laughs).
Lisa I think that’s probably a nice note to finish on.
106 minutes 23 seconds
Transcribed November 2017