NLW 13115B, pp. ix-125 (extracts):
Made in a Journey thro some Parts of
GLAMORGAN and CAERMARTHENSHIRE
In June 1796.
Go to page:
pp. 1-11: | pp. 16-17: | pp. 27-28: | pp. 29-44: | pp. 99-102: | pp. 102-114: | pp. 114-116: |
Agricultural Observations, &c.
Vale of Glamorgan,
Being intent on making some agricultural observations in my present Journey into Carmarthenshire, I begin with this little Parish.
Flimston is in the best part of the Vale of Glamorgan, and its' land esteemed the best of this best part, it is however rather more backward in spring than most of the neighbouring parishes, the soil a chestnut coloured loam or rather clay; in most places about eighteen inches, in some places two feet deep; upon the tract of limestone called in this Country the Rag-lias and Grey-lias, the lime is very strong, sets extremely hard in water, for which reason the little Harbour of Aberthaw is much frequented by vessels from every part of the Kingdom, and some from other Kingdoms, for this limestone, for every kind of water masonry, as Bridges Canals, Ponds, Pier-heads, &c, the rock is loose, and easily dug up without blowing, large veins of marly earth or clay lie between the strata which a rational farmer would think as well worth digging for as for the limestone: mixt with lime and turned over three or four times to expose it well to the air, frosts, sun and rain &c it would be an invaluable compost, but the farmers suffer the quarrymen to throw it away amongst the quarry rubbish when they dig the limestone, this earth is, for a clay, very friable, and admits the rain waters thro' the fissures of the rock wherein it lies: this property of the rock renders the soil upon it dry and healthy, no water ever stagnating thereon. The herbage is very fine, all the clovers naturally abound, with abundance of ribwort &c this parish breeds a very large horned cattle, large and healthy sheep, and produces excellent wheat 36 bushels p acre is not reckoned above its average crop, more and considerably so has been known, the manure for corn is lime, in excess, I think, 200 heaped bushels and often more p acre. Summer fallows are much used in these parts: and what, I think, fascinates the farmer in them, is that such a profusion of very strong lime in its burning state, as may be said, from the kiln so effectually destroys weeds and all vegetation that he, experiencing this advantage, is not yet aware of some disadvantages that attend this excessive liming, for when lands are laid down in grass, and that even in good heart, as the farmers say i.e. in an unexhausted condition, we find the grass and herbage degenerated, and it will not in many years, some think never, recover itself. Landlords observe this fall away in pasturage, and attribute it to Agriculture without thinking or reasoning any farther about the matter, and insert in the leases they grant restrictive covenants, not to break up ancient meadow, or any other pasture ground some-times, if it seems to be tolerably well recovered in its herbage, some wish to see the Ancient husbandry or culture restored i.e. in its principles, not on its original narrow scale. It was this
1. Dress on the grass in October if possible if not in March, with 20 Cranhooks, i.e. 80 bushels of slaked lime, this will immediately improve the grass, augment its quantity and enrich the land for wheat in Autumn, when
2. Plough once saw the wheat, well-drenched with sea water and lime; this crop of wheat will be fine and large, but not as clear of weeds as fallowed land and the stubble will be full of grass.
3. In winter when frosty, dress with coal ashes, if they are to be had, or with barn yard and cow house dung, and sow barley , with (a later improvement) clover.
4. Clover, mown twice. 1st crop for hay. 2d for seed, and in the clover stubble
5. Sow wheat, that off the ground.
6. Dress with a little lime and what manure the barn yard affords. Sow barley with or without clover, and leave the ground in grass. Some think clover no improvement on this occasion, and say that the natural grass of the vale of Glamorgan is preferable to any other, and comes sooner without the clover, or if clover must be sown let it be the Dutch or white, this will be giving speedily, what nature will in a little longer time abundantly supply.
Some sow oats the last crop, as one ploughing will do, but this was reckoned bad husbandry, and oats on no good principle could be raised but where fresh land was broken up in March when grown mossy, or otherwise in want of the improvement that culture gives, preparatory for a lime dressing and wheat in the ensuing Autumn.
This was esteemed the best course of ancient culture. The worst, or the many bad courses are not worth recording.
Some still speak in high terms of this course, and even practice it; and say that the ground when laid in grass is greatly superior to what it is after the modern course of crops with its excessive liming.
I give what is best of the ancient culture in the supposition that it may afford some useful hint.
. . .
But as the Glamorgan-Vale pastures are naturally free from weeds, I do not know but a better method of dressing, and equally fertilizing, lands may be conceived and practiced than this grass-exterminating usage of superfluous liming. Try something. - Flimston meadows below the village are frequently inundated by floods that come from very fertile soils: these meadows, along the banks of the river Daw whose vale is here about half a mile wide, are exuberantly rich, two abundant crops of hay every year, would floods permit, would never injure the ground it is so luxuriantly rich, and enriched by every flood, the festuca fluitans, or flote fesque grows abundantly in some of these meadows, and along the banks of many other rivers in Glamorgan. it is a knotty grass, it grows up about 18 inches, falls down, takes root, and grows up, then it falls down, roots and grows again till it is at last perhaps thirty feet long or more when disengaged from the ground, when this grass is taken from the haystack in winter and bitten at the joints it tastes as sweed as honey, hogs will eat it and fatten on it, and cattle fed with it are very large and strong. The Trout of the river Daw is large and fine, and said, by those who pretend to know, that it is the same with the Fordwich Trout in Kent.
. . .
Newton Down, 12 miles westward of Cowbridge.
The Tract of Country from Cowbridge (and 10 miles more eastward) here, is that of the White lime rag, the lime is very white, and more proper for light lands than the lias lime, tho' less proper for the purposes of masonry, without a particular management that will render it equally good. The soil of this tract is not so strong as that of the Rag-lias, it is a reddish and fertile loam, produces fine corn of all sorts, the pasturage is of the finest kind but drought is the evil to which this tract is mostly subject, the rock has open fissures that admit the rain very freely, this soil is very kindly for exotics its wild strawberries are larger than usual and of better flavour, than the wild strawberries of other soils.
Lead oar, Calamine, Manganese and ocres of various sorts are found in this tract, also good marble of various colours, and in detached masses, of a mile perhaps in length and breadth, very good freestone equal to Portland stone in goodness, an inferior kind of precious stone like that of St. Vincents' rocks at Bristol is found in this tract, perhaps it may be better than the Bristol stone for it will cut glass and has a good brilliancy. The trochites are here found in abundance, beautiful selenites &c.
. . .
Swansea, 30 miles from Cowbridge.
This Town has improved so amazingly within the last 25 years that it is now the largest in all Wales. It has a very great coal-trade, large Copper works, a Pottery equal, as some say to Mr. Wedgewood's, a fine Bay for sun-bathing, and on that account much frequented, and will be more so when Providence favours us with Peace, and a revival of our once experienced commercial prosperity, considerable progress has been made on a large canal, and one of the completest that I have any where seen, it goes up, thro' a Country abounding in Coal and Iron, into Brecknockshire. Natural grass mown on lands near the Town - the soil naturally gravely and ferruginous, and has additionally in some places a bituminous quality, and is perhaps in a considerable degree sulphureous, for I conceive that all peaty grounds have sulphur and bitumen in their soils whence their combustibility, there is much of this kind of soil about Swansea, but much of it has been of late years wonderfully reclaimed by culture, draining, and manuring with lime and coal ashes.
Much of the soil in this part of the Country, tho' not peaty but gravelly, has a wetness in it that cannot be well accounted for, but from some-thing in it that attracts moisture from the air, it is sulphureous, but is sulphur the water-attracting principle? It is ferruginous but does Iron attract or imbibe water from the air? I think it does for nothing is more common than to see pieces of Iron very wet in some dispositions of the air, having on them large drops of water, which never, I believe, appear on any other metal. Mountains that abound with Iron and coal, always found together, are perpetually pouring down their streams on all sides, whence all this water from such elevated places unless it is there collected by some moisture-imbibing principle? Let us endeavour to discover this principle, and when we have done so to destroy or neutralize it, we shall thus become possessed of very extensive tracts of land that will be reclaimable so as to produce abundance of all sorts of corn, afford us fine pasture, employment, and thence wealth to our peasantry, and plenty for our whole community; and for other parts of the world besides. - The Country all around Swansea is very populous owing to the Collieries and Copper works.
I set out for Carmarthen, and pass thro the very large parish of Llangyvelach, that abounds in Coal and Iron, the soil of this Country, observed in its natural state, is, seemingly, the worst of all others, Spewy, boggy or peaty, the grass very coarse of a dirty green, and sour, and quite unfit for sheep. Black cattle and oats are all that the old husbandry draws from it. But recent improvement has, notwithstanding the ill looks of the soil, which, such as it is, is generally sufficiently deep, and seems more capable of great improvement than many soils that look not half so bad. The soil of the Coal and Iron tracts has, generally an exuberant growth of oak, as we find everywhere in Glamorgan where the woods have not been recently destroyed. . .
This Parish of Llangyvelach is very large and would upon an average make a square of about ten miles. The surface of the Country consists of gentle hills of very easy assent wide open valleys, very few if any mountains, much wood, a number of brooks and small rivers having plenty of Salmon, Sewin, and Trout, it is very productive of Timber, has abundance of coal and Iron, good stone for every useful purpose of building, with slate for covering houses, the ascents of the uplands are not in any considerable degree obstructive to agriculture, except, perhaps, in a very few places; whilst on the other hand the descents are such even in the valleys that have rivers and brooks of brisk, and often rapid currents, that drainage can be with great ease effected, so that if an effectual and cheap corrective for the soil could be found, with general draining, this tract of country, beautiful in its landscapes, might be rendered so fertile and plentiful as to be as delightful a place, everything considered, as any part of the kingdom; the air is much milder and pleasanter than about London, the plenty of coal, of good fish, the good market and commercial seaport Town of Swansea &c with the ample products of agriculture would concenter so many advantages as could not in many places be met with. Thus improved, which I think very practicable, this part of Glamorganshire would be a comfortable, and even desirable rural place of residence, and for a tract of Country to the amount of a square of ten miles to be rendered abundantly productive of corn, or even of dairy articles would be of importance worthy the notice of the Legislature, it would be well, as an encouragement to such improvements as are here considered, if consistent with the Landlord's rights, a law was provided to entitle every farmer that, having a lease, should reclaim, during its' term, a given quantity of boggy or peaty soil; to a renewal of his lease for such a term as might be thought most proper for a new law obtained for this purpose to limit. And being tenant at will, if he should commence an undertaking of a properly specified improvement he should be thence entitled to such a term (other obligations being fairly discharged) as might be necessary to accomplish his design, and that being done, that he should be entitled to a lease for an equitable term, that would leave him no room to complain of not having an opportunity of indemnification and a liberal reward for his labour and perhaps ingenuity. I know not whether such a Law could on the principles of Justice and sound policy be proposed, I imagine that it could. Laws restrictive and constrictive it must be confest are unpleasant in many cases, and may be in a degree hazardous, but surely there can be nothing greatly to blame either in a Legislature that should enact or an individual who might suggest what might be indisputably meant for the good of all the parties individually considered, and of the Community at large, the improver would be, of legal right, entitled to his due reward, the Landlord would have his estate improved, and the Public would be benefited by the produce of such improvements. There are three claims on all Lands the Landlord for his Rents, the Cultivator and improver for their expences and Labours, and the public at large for subsistence, properly requited, from it. Of this last claim the agency is vested in the government who must, or should, provide in the best manner possible for the subsistence and well-being of its' charge, the Public at large: this being the most important claim its voice ought to be heard with preference, and its right of dictating on the most equitable terms that other claims admit, must be allowed.
The lands of this kind that about Neath and Swansea have been well-reclaimed, are, I observe, earlier in their Springs and Harvests than the limestone Lands of the Vale part of the County.
But whatever improvements besides might be effected, I would warmly recommend the planting of oak in proper places and in large quantities. On spots the most difficult of culture, in places where shelter might be wanted against certain winds, sea air, &c if the planting of oak will be much longer neglected in this Kingdom, we, or our posterity, may experience bad consequences, and this kind (i.e. the peaty) of soil appears to be peculiarly good for oak, Fir, and Larch that is still more profitable, will prosper on peaty soils.
Hedges are for the most part of willow, Hazel, and oak, with some Alder, very little hawthorn, Birch now and then appears, and seems to make a thick, quick-growing, and well-looking hedge.
A great proportion of the Lands of Langavelach are similar to those in the Forest of Dean where orchards prosper, and so they would, if planted, in Langyvelach; but here we very seldom observe an apple tree.
The Cottages are well white-washed, but much inferior to those of the Vale, I have not been in any of them, but they are low, have only windows for ground floors, if they have any kind of upper floor or loft as it is here termed, it must be dark, and consequently almost useless. Some modern built cottages must be excepted, they are built on a very good plan, and these are numerous owing to the Collieries, &c. . .
Before I go out of Glamorgan I will observe that the Agriculture Society of this County tho' too contracted in its plan and, perhaps, not sufficiently various in its objects has done much good. . .
A Glamorgan Tradition says that the South Moulton (in Devonshire) breed of cattle, originated from four cows and a bull that Sir Edward Stradling of St. Donats' Castle gave a Devonshire farmer as a fortune with an illegitimate Daughter. The reader may vouch for which he pleases, either the truth or the falsehood of this anecdote, or if he thinks it better may care nothing about it. - Recording facts anecdotes and observations as they occur I fall into excentricities.
. . .
June 24. . .
Three miles up the river, it consists of about 200 houses recently built by Jno Morris Esqr of Clasemont, where twenty years ago there was only one solitary cottage on as barren a tract of land called the Forest: as could any where be seen. The houses stand detached from, but near to, each other, with good gardens, the streets wide, a much more rational method of laying out a Town than has hitherto been adopted in this part of the world, - This Town increases daily and goes towards, Swansea that walks out rapidly meet it, and a few years of peace will enable these two Towns to embrace each other. - Pass over a fine one-arch'd bridge, by the celebrated Welsh Bridge-builder William Edwards. The new road leading to it from Lansamled has very fine luxuriant hawthorn hedges on each side, a proof that such will succeed well on this peaty, rank, and sour coal-land. I have seen on the same kind of land this morning near Swansea as fine a piece of wheat as I would ever wish to see.
Parish of Llansamled,
Observe a fine young Orchard growing luxuriantly, I notice with pleasure every thing of this kind on the hitherto supposed good for nothing and for ever unimproveable Parish of Llansamled,coal land]. On it a little farther on I observe again large woods and very fine oak. - Some pieces of birch-hedge are thick, and have a more pleasing look than hazel, the too common hedge of this part of the Country.
Improves very fast upon the whole; one Copper work has been discontinued but another has started up, with a large set of buildings for Iron works - and another set near it. A fine New bridge of light and elegant construction, in this rivalling the famous bridge by Inigo Jones at Llanrwst and superior to it in masonry, it consist of three fine arches. There are very fine views from it up and down this very romantic vale: and finer from the Canal Bridge not far off. Down towards the sea are the charming woody knolls of Briton Ferry, and upwards views equally delightful, and more grand. - Hay harvested, and some carried off the grounds. Orchards near Neath succeed very well, the only fault is that they are not more numerous.
. . .
Set out from Neath by way of the Mountains to Cowbridge . . . A sensible drover, returning from New-Castle-Emlyn Fair in Carmarthenshire rides slowly that I may walk with him, we talk about Carmarthenshire, he thinks that the Climate is more humid than that of Glamorgan, but not so much as to be a very material discouragement to Agriculture. He thinks the Barley of West Wales the best in the kingdom for malt as well as bread, this must be mere opinion, the fact has not been ascertained. He agrees with me that the generality of the Carmarthenshire Farmers are very ignorant, but he knows some that are not so, (and he is well-acquainted with the Country) he knows a few that raise excellent crops of all sorts of corn wheat as well as barley and oats, that many cultivate turnips, clover and other grasses, very judiciously, they are chiefly Gentlemen on their own Estates, who have studied, understand, and adopt the improved system of husbandry. - He observes that the common bread corn of every country is the most profitable to the farmer because it is always disposed of on the spot in large quantities for ready money. - Barley and oats are the bread-corns of Carmarthenshire, with these the inhabitants are contented, being habituated to it; they would not soon be brought to eat wheaten bread at a price that they could not afford, wages being exceedingly low. Besides he thinks Barley, where soils produce it in superior excellence, a much more profitable crop than wheat. An acre will afford more bushels of Barley, by a fourth part, than of wheat; and its season of fallowing is the winter, when no crop of grass or of any thing is lost. This observation supposes the necessity of summer fallowing for wheat, and for every crop of it, which is erroneous. Barley he says will do with less manure, and is less exhausting to the Land. - I attempted a Course of cropping that obviated the objection from Summer fallowing, and that a crop of oats or potatoes, and other summer crops would admit of a manuring partly in spring and partly in autumn at wheat sowing, when (if potatoes) the ploughing them up, with prepared compost of lime and earth, or dung &c added, would be doing much of the business of fallowing: at that time: as is commonly practiced in Glamorgan lime might be burnt ang given to the ground in a moderate quantity, sufficient for the purpose of fertilizing, and that, with the potatoes a spring dressing could be given which with the second dressing in Autumn would be an ample manuring for wheat. Turnips in June, I observed, admitted of a good spring fallowing, and by loss of a Summer crop obtained a more valuable winter crop. He admitted much of what I said to be just, but that it was not upon the whole convincing to him, he insisted much on the important circumstance of being always able to convert the common breadcorn of a Country, on the spot to ready money, without risking the chances of distant markets, always uncertain and fluctuating, Corn dealers not always to be safely trusted, he mentioned the great expence of conveying wheat to sea ports, and after that of freightage to Bristol &c, with sea-dangers, and the profits allowed the dealer, who must have under the retail market price, and other circumstances, from all which he infer'd that the corn that is always consumed in the largest quantities on the spot is the most profitable to be raised, the most productive of money which it daily brought in, and that of which the farmer having his market at home was best able to make a proper estimate, the whole of the disposal of this, he said, the farmer had in his own power from first to last. And having clearer views of it than of any produce sent to distant and hazardous markets, he would be more at ease in his mind, more certain of what he was about. He says that as much wheat is already raised as can be disposed of to families that eat wheaten bread who are very few in number, all the wheat that could be additionally raised in Carmarthenshire must be sent away to very remote markets between which and the farmer, a cloud would always intervene, especially to those who know not the English language who are more than two thirds of the Welsh Farmers. Glamorgan, he said, consumed wheaten bread, when wheat could there be disposed of at home in quantities that often amounted to the whole crop, there the little as well as the great farmer had his market open for it daily; the little farmer can seldom afford to thresh out a large crop of corn, send it all to a remote market at a great expense, and carry on at the same time the business of his farm, waiting all this while for his money, that tho it may come at last, and all in a round sum into his hands, yet is long before it comes, and he in the meantime greatly wants it, but for a crop consumed in the Country he daily receives money to answer all his purposes, for these reasons he thinks the popular breadcorn the most convenient, expedient, and profitable crop every where, being the most immediately convertible into money. - The culture of wheat in general as a main crop he thinks will never do well in Carmarthenshire, till all the inhabitants come into the habit of eating wheaten bread. I did not much controvert his reasons tho' I am not convinced by them, I note them down for further consideration, and to put them, if opportunities should occur, to the test of future observation; I did not want to convince him so much as to be informed by him of facts, and opinions, and to hear his own opinions: thinking that it might be time enough to answer them, if after mature consideration and additional information, they might be found erroneous.
I asked his opinion of the Carmarthenshire manners and morals, he said that he was pleased with their simplicity and hospitality; and in many things he prefer'd the morals of Carmarthen to those of Glamorgan: but he says (and he knows, seemingly, much of the Country) that female seduction prevails greatly there, as much nearly (for so he observed) as in England, half the women that mary, he says, are previously pregnant, - He observed that the Glamorgan neatness in houses, is not often seen in Carmarthenshire, and I had thought so myself, from what I had an opportunity of observing, nor have I seen it in any other part of the Kingdom, this is not partiality I am certain.
A village of about ten or twelve neat village houses, surrounding a handsome and capacious Church that has a good school house at its western end, it is given rent free to an approved master that opens a school here, my intelligent companion rides on, and whilst in a decent public house Tea is getting ready. I go into the Church yard and Church, reading the numerous tombs and monuments, many of them in Welsh but a far greater number in English, I noted upwards of fifty ages all 80 and upwards, one of them as follows
Jane Jenkin died 21 January, 1774, AE. 110.
I am told that of very late years, several on whom there are no stones have been buried in this Churchyard, whose ages were 100 and upwards each. This salubrious Village and Parish stand on the summit of a mountain surrounded by higher mountains at a little distance, it is thus not greatly exposed to keen skies, and ere they reach this village the force and edge of rough and sharp winds are blunted.
The land about this village is of the best kind of mountain soil, dry, healthy, and fertile enough to produce plenty of all kinds of corn, there are good pastures, and at hand there is plenty of coal, so that this place is for one who wishes to be out of the way of the world a desirable corner enough, if he walks out it must be into fine air and cheerful views. If he will content himself with wholesom, Welsh mountain fare, drink often from the fine fountains that will serve him for a mirror, and hear often a Welsh Bard, and Welsh harp, he may stand a fair chance of living to the age of Jane Jenkin.
It was till I came to Llangynwyd that I felt myself fairly returned to Glamorgan, with whose manner and habits, upon the whole, I am better pleased than with those of more than thirty Counties that I have seen, this may be partiality, even prejudice, but it is very natural and quite harmless. Philosophy does herself no credit by endeavouring to reason us out of those innocent prepossessions and dear sensibilities that are incidental to human nature.
This County has made considerable progress in modern improvements, and at the same time retains in tolerable purity the ancient Welsh manners and simplicity, amd the ancient proverb of
The Suavity of Glamorgan.
May still be retained with considerable propriety, every where, excepting a few of our Vale Towns, Cardiff, Cowbridge &c that, aping they know not what, have acquired much of the Monkey character, with a smack of the Fox, sly, cunning, and thievish, on a plan that keeps clear of the Law, I know their characters well enough, but it is not worth enlarging upon trifles.
Langynwyd, June 25, 1796.