The Ramblers Countryside Companion

I’m a very lucky boy at Christmas. As we reach February, I am still able to comment on presents I received back in December. This one is a book with the title I have also given this post.

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The book is new but it has a period feel to it because it is a reprint of a book from more than 80 years ago.

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Of course, back in the 1930s rambling was the thing to do. It was healthy. It got you out in the fresh air and away from the grime of the city. And a book could point out interesting things and events to see and suggest areas to go to for a ramble.

I was taken by a section on hops and hopping. Hops, of course, are used to flavour bitter beer. For me, Kent is the home of the hop although my wife, brought up for some tyears in Worcester, recalls locals describing the weather as ‘proper hop picking’.

I have picked hops myself, assisting family members who did this to earn a bit of extra cash. I recall it as being hard, dirty work.

I also had ancestors who were agricultural labourers in Kent. They must have worked in hop gardens. I wonder if any were ever stilt men. One is shown in the book.

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I’d love to think that my great great great grandfather, Edward Wright might have been a stilt man. He lived at Boughton-under-Blean quite near Faversham in Kent, an area thick with hop gardens.

Let’s finish with an extract from the book.

HOPS AND HOPPING

If your wanderings take you into the hop-growing districts of Kent, you cannot fail to notice the quaint brick buildings that are scattered over the countryside very like giant candle-extinguishers. They look like structures built to stand for centuries and will undoubtedly outlast many a modern building. Sometimes there is but one in a hop-garden, often two, occasionally three and on large estates six or eight peep above the bines and orchards. They are what are known as Oast-houses. Oast is a word meaning kiln, and these quaint buildings are the kiln-houses in which the hops are dried.

Kent is not the only county in which you will find hop gardens and oast-houses. True they are more numerous and the gardens far more extensive than in other counties, but Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Herefordshire and  Worcestershire all have large areas of fertile land for the cultivation of hops. In the last named county the gardens are usually spoken of as yards.

There is considerable variety in the design of oast-houses, but they are easily recognised by their conical roofs and white painted cowls, with the long, projecting vane that keeps the opening in the cowl turned away from the wind. In Kent, most of the oast-houses are circular in form, a shape that ensures more equal weathering and less resistance to the high winds.

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One Response to “The Ramblers Countryside Companion”

  1. Janet Says:

    Reblogged this on Janet’s thread and commented:
    More genealogy and hops.

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