Rodborough Ridge and Furrow



Just over the road at Rodborough Glebe allotments,

In Rodborough Fields, beyond Kings Road,

Castlemead Road and Arundel Drive,

You can see a clear pattern of ridge and furrow

(‘Like corrugated fields or waves in a land-sea’),

Particularly on frosty midwinter days:

A glimpse of a world before enclosure

Parcelled up and privatised the landscape

With fences and gates and hedgerows.

But there’s nothing in the landscape to tell you

Just what this pattern of ridges and humps

In grassland, sward and pasture implies,

Or connotes: no plaque or information board

To let us know that where we tread

There was a whole different way of carrying on

From what we regard as normality today:

The tyranny of the clock and pursuit of profit;

Instead, there was a community

Based upon sharing and mutuality.

It wasn’t just the sharing out of the strips

Of arable land in the open fields,

Or the gleaning.

The tending to and milking of a cow.

The looking out for rabbits.

The gathering of fruits, berries and nuts.

The being satisfied with that you have.

The exchanging of surplus so as to just get by.

The lending or borrowing of tools.

It wasn’t just the fuel – wood, turf, furze, bracken,

Or the crops, gleaning or grazing that gave sustenance,

It was also the community of reciprocity;

The sharing, the mutuality

That fashioned a community,

And the arranged or happenstance meeting

In field, lane, pathway, holloway, baulk or common,

And the ensuing conversation

And sharing of the time of day

(‘Good morrow, Gossip Joan,

Where have you been a-walking? …’);

And ‘wasting time’ didn’t mean laziness,

It might have been incomprehensible to the elite,

But the lower orders could have an eye for the picturesque too,

You didn’t have to be educated to have an eye for the sublime:

John Clare textualized what many saw and felt:

‘How fond the rustics ear at leisure dwells

On the soft soundings of his village bells

As on a Sunday morning at his ease

He takes his rambles just as fancys please

Down narrow baulks that intersect the fields

Hid in profusion that its produce yields

Long twining peas in faintly misted greens

And wing leafed multitudes of crowding beans

And flighty oatlands of a lighter hue.’

And, in a way, we carry on this tradition

On Rodborough Glebe allotments:

‘Social events, BBQs, plant and seed swaps, surplus food for food banks, educational activities for children, local history events,

compost toilets, a wildflower and wildlife area’


‘As we all know, nature left to itself would take over and so effort is needed from the members to keep the site workable – trimming edges, keeping pathways clear, cutting back brambles and nettles, maintaining the fences to keep badgers and deer out and keep the allotments safe, replacing and servicing gates and padlocks, keeping trees and hedges at manageable sizes, servicing the water supply, restoring neglected plots – the list is almost endless…’

This cooperative community

Is an ideal and a reality:

Everyone needs to chip in;

But when the work is done

And you have a spare moment,

Follow the footpath down to Kwick Fit

Through Rodborough Fields

And glance to your right:

Let your imagination run free

As you pass the ridge and furrow

Frozen in time and space in the pasture;

Walk with the ghosts at their toil

And at their joyful recreation,

Then put in another stint on the allotment,

Both for yourself and the community;

Keep the continuity going

That runs from medievalism to modernity:

For as William Faulkner said:

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”