Ridge and Furrow

Ridge & Furrow Whilst looking at Google Maps I noticed that the Wokingham Borough Council Open space (Emmbrook Walk) opposite Emmbrook School had a 'corrugated' appearance to the ground surface. This is indicative of ancient “ridge and furrow” farming techniques, a remnant of medieval farming. Ridge and furrow is the result of ploughing by teams of oxen with non-reversible ploughs.

In the Middle Ages families owned strips of land dotted throughout large common fields, so the ploughing location didn’t change much over the years, the ploughing motion built up earth in the centre of their strip and left a dip between each ridge. This technique offered the advantage of better drained soils. These techniques pretty much ended when enclosure and modern farming techniques came along, this changed everything in the countryside and through it’s knock on effects, displaced peasants, richer single landowners changed pretty much everything else in the world through it’s speeding up of the industrial revolution. This meant though that evidence of ridge and furrow patterns have only survived where modern ploughing hasn’t continued. So that’s fields that have been kept for pasture as grasslands and areas like country estate gardens.

It is claimed by some that Imperial measures on the land were derived from open-field farming methods. A ploughman's stick, used to prod the oxen was known as a rod, pole or perch, and was five-and-a-half yards long. Laying the pole four times across the field came to 22 yards (a chain); laying the pole 40 times down the field came to 220 yards (a farrowlength, furrowlength or furlong). The area so formed, 4840 square yards, was an acre and was considered the area a plough team could reasonably plough in a day. Map data ©2014 Google