« PreviousContinue »
it becomes a primary object with him to attend to the time of breeding, killing, &c. Skins that are free from black spots on the inside, are said to be in season, and the fur is then more valuable than at any other time. Those rabbits that are bred at the beginning of May, are esteemed the best. In June and November the skin is also generally white. The silver grey rabbits are of the best sort, excepting those of a clear white colour. Skins from the latter have sold from ninepence to sixteenpence each. The carcases have not netted of late, to the keepers of these warrens, more than fourpence each, owing to the obligation they are under of sending them far to a market, and to kill from eight to ten parts of the annual produce from the beginning of November to the end of December. This trade is not only on the decline, from the diminution in the value of the skins, but also from the means of conducting it becoming daily more circumscribed. Since many methods have been discovered to ameliorate such lands, and render them more productive, it has been thought a point of good husbandry to destroy the warrens, and convert the land to other uses; and the sooner the whole of such nuisances were removed the better. The voracity of rabbits is equal to their fecundity; and as they eat all kinds of herbs, roots, grain, fruit, bark, and branches of young trees, they are very destructive to plantations, corn, and other crops, especially quickset hedges. Though the number of warrens in Lincolnshire has been greatly reduced within a few years past, yet many thousand acres are still devoted to this kind of stock. Mr. Young counted ten between Louth and Castor, a distance of eighteen miles". Many of what are called the Fens, are in a state of waste, and
serve for little other purpose than the breeding and rearing of Geese, which are considered the Fenman's treasure. Indeed they are a highly valuable stock, and live where, in the present : - state state of those lands, nothing else will. . They breed numerous young, which quickly become saleable; or if thought more desirable, speedily contribute to increase the stock. Their feathers are highly valuable; and however trifling it may appear in detail, the sale of quills alone amount, on a large flock, to a very considerable sum. Of feathers the use is well known; and of all kinds, for the stuffing of beds, those of geese are considered the best. Whether from increasing luxury, the diminution in the quantity produced, or both these causes co-operating, the present demand in England is obliged to be supplied by importations from abroad; and the article is greatly advanced, and advancing, in price. From the cheap mode which persons in this county possess of keeping these aquatic fowls, Lincolnshire still furnishes the markets with large quantities of goose-feathers and goosequills. - “During the breeding season, these birds are lodged in the same houses with the inhabitants, and even in their very bed-chambers: in every apartment are three rows of coarse wicker pens, placed one above another; each bird has its separate lodge, divided from the other, which it keeps possession of during the time of sitting. A gozzard, or gooseherd, attends the flock, and twice a day drives the whole to water, then brings them back to their habitation, helping those that live in the upper stories to their nests, without ever misplacing a single bird”.” The geese are usually plucked five times a year, though some persons pluck them only three times, and others four. The first
* For a more particular account of such lands, and their comparative profits, see Young's Agricultural Survey.
plucking is at Lady-day, for quills and feathers, and again at
Midsummer, Lammas, Michaelmas, and Martinmas. Goslings are not spared; for it is thought, that early plucking tends to increase their succeeding feathers. “The feathers of a dead goose are worth sixpence, three giving a pound; but plucking alive does not yield more than threepence a head, per annum. Some wing them only every quarter, taking ten feathers from each goo-3,
Vol. IX. N n which
* Gough's additions to Camden, Vol. II, p. 235. Edition of 1789.
which sell at five shillings a thousand. Plucked geese pay, in
The general improvements that have been effected in this county, within the last twenty years, and that are now gradually making, have co-operated to alter the general appearance, the agriculture, climate, &c. in such a material manner, that the surface has assumed a new aspect, the value of land is greatly increased, the means of social and commercial communication have been facilitated, and rendered more convenient, and the comforts of domestic life greatly promoted. Still, though much has been done towards effecting these important ends, there is scope for material improvements: for the roads in many parts of the county are in a very bad state, and though toll bars are raised to tax the traveller, he is not provided with advantages adequate to the levied rates. In the neighbourhood of Boston, Spalding, and Louth, the Commissioners have commenced a plan of forming firm and substantial roads. This is mostly done by laying a quantity of shingles, brought from the Norfolk coast, in the centre of the road, and mixing them with the silt of the place. The latter is a sort of porous sea sand, which has been deposited by the tides at a period when they covered the whole of the fens. It becomes firm with rain, but in dry weather forms a loose sand, of a dark red colour, driven about by the winds, and unfit for vegetation. Mixed with clay and loam it affords valuable breeding pasture for sheep, and in some places, under
* Young's General View, p. 394.
under tillage, produces large crops of oats. This grain is almost the only object of agriculture in the inclosed fen-lands; and immense crops of it are produced with little labour or skill. “There is an extraordinary circumstance,” says A. Young, “ in the north-west corner of the county. Agues were formerly commonly known upon the Trent and Humber sides—at present they are rare; and nothing has been effected on the Lincoln side of the Humber, to which it can be attributed; but there was a coincidence of time with the draining Wallin-fen in Yorkshire to this effect: that county is now full of new built houses, and highly improved, and must have occasioned this remarkable change”.” . The Wolds extend from Spilsby, in a north westerly direction, for about forty miles to Barton, near the Humber. They are, on the average, nearly eight miles in breadth, and consist of sand and sandy loam, upon flinty loam, with a sub-stratum of chalk. This is peculiarly their appearance about Louth, and in the extensive rabbit warrens between Gayton and Tathwel. But where the friable loams prevail, rich upland pastures are seen pleasingly intermixed. From Binbrook to Caiston, with the interruption of Caiston Moor, a sandy soil prevails; and thence, sand with an intermixture of argillaceous earth, till they change into the rich loam of which Barton field, a space of 6000 acres, principally consists. - - Beneath this line, and parallel with the eastern shore, lies an extensive tract of land at the foot of the Wolds, in the direction of north west to south east, reaching from Barton to Wainfleet, of various breadth, from five to ten miles. This tract of country, called the marsh, is secured from the encroachments of the sea by embankments of earth, and is agriculturally divided into north and south marshes, by a difference in the soil, called middle marsh. The first comprises a large extent of rich salt lands, the value of which is well known to the grazier; the second consists of stiff, cold, and tenacious clay, consequently N n 2 of of inferior value; and the intervening land is a rich brown loan,' stretching across from Belesby to Grimsby. Between these two ridges, of Wolds and Heath, is a tract of varied, but useful. land, though accompanied by much of a different character. From “The heath-hill, looking eastward, there is no cliff; yet the country slopes gradually into a vale, of soils too various for description, but not good in its general feature. Half way to the Wolds, in a line not regular, there is a rising tract of good land, that is narrow, on which the villages are built; this sinks again into another part of the various-soiled vale to the Wolds. Thus forming, between the Heath and the Wolds, first, the narrow ridge on which the villages are built, set at about sixteen shillings; then the Ancholme flat, at fourteen shillings; the ridge of pasture, at sixteen shillings; a flat of moor very bad; and then the Wolds”.” Between these are the following Fens: first, those which lie below the sloping ground of the south Heath, running north by east from Grantham to Lineoln, extending again by the west from Lincoln to the banks of the Trent. Second, those low lands lying upon the river Witham, forming a triangle between the points of Lincoln, Wainfleet, and Croyland. And lastly, those which lie between the north Heath. and the Wolds, in the vicinity of Ancholme. o FENs, Rivers, DRAINING, &c. The Fens of this county, it has been observed, form one of its most prominent features. They consist of lands which, at some distant period, have been inundated by the sea, and by human art have been recovered from it. In the summer season they exhibit immense tracts chiefly of grazing land, intersected by wide deep ditches, called droves, which answer the end both of fences and drains. These are accompanied generally by parallel banks, upon which the roads pass, and are intended to keep the waters, in flood time, from overflowing the adjacent lands. They not only communicate
* General View, p. 6,