12. Agriculture—Crops and Stock.

Compared with many other parts of England and Wales Nottinghamshire is highly cultivated. In common with the rest of the country the area under cultivation, as recorded in the Board of Agriculture’s returns, has steadily decreased during the last fifteen years. This is no doubt largely due to the increase in the number of gardens and of holdings less than one acre in extent of which no account is taken in the returns. These are a considerable item, for instance, in Nottingham, where extensive areas are given over wholly to gardens, which are said to number nearly six thousand.

Only five other counties exceed Nottinghamshire in the proportion of woodland. The area of woodland in 1905 was 28,540 acres, or five per cent. of the county. For England and Wales it is only four per cent. For many continental countries it is over 20 per cent. Since 1891 the area in our county has been increased by 2721 acres. This has not been done for economic purposes but for the improvement of the landscape or for the preservation of game.

In Nottinghamshire 42 per cent. of the area is occupied by arable land and 40 per cent. by pasture. Its general character may therefore be described as half corn-growing and half pastoral. Corn crops are grown in all parts of the county.

Wheat does best on the heavy clay lands of the Keuper and is favoured by the dry climate and warm summers. In 1907 there were 33,795 acres or six per cent, of the county under wheat. This is a smaller proportion than in corn-growing Lincolnshire with its nine per cent, of wheat land, and larger than in pastoral Leicestershire which had only four per cent. This difference is accentuated by the productiveness of the soils, for in Nottinghamshire each acre produces on the average 29 bushels whereas in Lincolnshire it produces as much as 34 bushels.

For some years the area devoted to wheat-growing has declined all over Great Britain. In this county in 1907 there were 4000 acres less than in 1906 and 30,000 less than in 1880. This is associated with the low price consequent upon the importation of large quantities of foreign wheats. Nevertheless it is still necessary to mix English with foreign wheats in order to produce the best qualities of flour. The area devoted to the growth of barley has also shown a similar but not so strongly-marked decline. On the other hand oats have been cultivated more and more. The area so used advanced from 23,452 acres in 1880 to 39,767 acres in 1907. The advance between 1906 and 1907 was over 4000 acres.

In 1907 the other corn crops—rye, beans, and peas— occupied 2894, 5262, and 4750 acres respectively.

Stilton Cheese Making (Midland Agricultural and Dairy College).
Stilton Cheese Making (Midland Agricultural and Dairy College).

Corn crops are not grown upon the same ground year after year, otherwise the quality of the crops would decline. In past years much of the land was left to rest, i.e. to lie fallow. Thus in 1880 as many as 24,332 acres lay fallow. But in 1907 only a little over 7000 acres, chiefly very heavy clay land, were thus left to produce nothing. In these days arable land is used for growing other crops besides corn. Some of these, such as clover, vetches, etc., enrich the soil; others draw their nutriment from different depths; whilst turnips, swedes, and mangolds are so widely spaced that the farmer is able to hoe and to clean the soil from weeds. Thus whilst the soil is being prepared for the growth of corn it is also being used to produce winter fodder for cattle. In 1907 28,523 acres were devoted to turnips and swedes, 51,348 acres to clover, sainfoin, and temporary grass, and 19,135 to other crops.

The chief areas for permanent pasture are along the sides of the Trent and Soar and in the Vale of Belvoir. The Trent-side pastures arc used mainly for fattening cattle. The rich pastures of the other two areas are devoted mainly to dairy farming. Sheep are reared all over the county; least of all in the dairying district, most in the sandy lands of the Bunter, the dryness of which is less liable to cause diseases of the foot and liver. The number of sheep in Nottinghamshire is about half the number of those in Leicestershire, and has decreased by one-half in twenty-five years.

Within the county Cropwell is noted for sheep, Ruddington for cattle, Carlton-on-Trent for shire horses, Edwinstowe for hunters, Colston Basset for pigs.

One hundred years ago the country around Tuxford was famous for pigeons. It is recorded that “seven hundred dozen were sold on one market day at Tuxford to a higler from Huntingdonshire.”

Butter Making (Midland Agricultural and Dairy College).
Butter Making (Midland Agricultural and Dairy College).

No account of the agriculture of the county would be complete without a reference to the Agricultural and Dairy College at Kingston. This institution was established by the County Councils of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Lindsey. It possesses a highly qualified staff, a thorough equipment, spacious premises, and indeed all the requirements for giving efficient instruction, theoretical and practical, in all branches of farming.

Concerning special cultivations there is little to be said. “Skegs,” a poor quality of oats said to be peculiar to the county, were grown on very poor land and “reckoned a sweet food.” Liquorice was at one time grown near Worksop, and weld or dyer’s weed, Reseda luteola, used to be cultivated in large quantities south of Scrooby for making a yellow dye.

At the commencement of the nineteenth century hops were grown on the land between Retford and Tuxford and sold at annual Hop Fairs at these places. They were also grown around Southwell. The plantations were situated chiefly in valleys and wet situations. These hops were known in the trade as “North Clay Hops” and were considered much stronger than Kentish hops. At that time an area of no less than 11,000 acres was devoted to this cultivation. In 188o it had dwindled to 29 acres. Now they are not grown at all.