By Joan Thirsk
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WOLDS AND DowNLAND Because of their early settlement history, the wolds and downlands are separately considered in Everitt's categorisation, but may be 38 Wolds and downland Arable vale lands (fielden or champion) Pastoral vale lands Heath land Forests and woodpasture Fells and moorland Marshland Map IV. Farming regions: a simplified schedule amalgamated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries because their development was similar. Both types of region produced some of the best grain, mostly in common fields, cultivated under a three-course rotation.
It is also worth noting in this southern district yet another dovetailing of social and agricultural features: fruit-growing and hop-growing suited its greensand soils, but they also suited the working regimes of this class of farmers. Family labour was likely to be sufficient to deal with these profitable sidelines in all except the busiest harvesting season, and (for hops) in the bine-tying season. Thus social leanings and agricultural possibilities matched each other. While at one level of investigation differences in the agrarian development of these three belts of vale land are perceptible, at another their experiences are plainly distinguishable as a group from those of other clay vales in the Midlands in the period 1640-1750.
More detailed studies in the future will almost certainly refine our perceptions of these extensive, and seemingly uniform, regions, which have not yet received the same attention as the lowlands. The acid soils of the moorland and a wet cold climate meant poor grassland and meagre chances to grow crops. Hardy livestock were the commercial mainstay of farmers, and the best land in the valleys was used for meadow to provide precious hay for their winter keep. An unkindly climate for grain made oats the first cereal for bread and beer, bigg - a four-rowed variety of coarse barley - the second, and rye the third.