Farming in Valley End

Alan Richardson and his family have farmed in Valley End for many years.

“I ran a farm with up to 300 acres, not all in Valley End of course, the land was all around the village. There were a lot of farms in Valley End and Chobham before the 1950s.

“The big farms were like Windlesham Park, which was 375 acres. It was farmed by Henderson, and at one time he had over 40 people working on that property. He was a great benefactor to the villages of Windlesham and Valley End.

“Some of the farms were very small. If you had 40 acres you had a biggish farm. If you had 4 acres or more it was called it a farm.

“People who had cottages and gardens or these small farms, turned their hand to anything to make extra money. Shrubbs Farm did carting in order to earn extra money, and Sturts the brickmakers used to run a taxi service as well. Nothing was specialised in quite the same way as today.

 

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Goats on the Common. (Photo courtesy David Hizzey.)

“You had to have something of everything in the farming line. You had to have poultry, you had to have a couple of sties of pigs, possibly less, just one sow sometimes, and she would have pigs each year, and they would be killed in the autumn. If you had a cow who had a calf each year, the family was kept in milk, and probably even sold some or gave it away maybe to other people. But I expect they made cheese and cream cheese with the milk, as well, but some was given away, or sold, just as a little extra.

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Feeding the chickens at Valley Wood Farm. (Image courtesy J. End.)

“The war prolonged farming in Chobham. Because everything was saleable, everything made quite a good price, and people could keep going on quite small acreages.

“During the war, everything was used, everything was ploughed up. The War Agricultural Committee would come round and tell you what they wanted you to grow, and you had to do it. Whether the ground was suitable or not didn’t always matter. They wanted more of, say, potatoes, cabbages, or brassica, and you had to comply and grow what they said.

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“To enjoy the fruits of victory, save now.” A farming scene on a National Savings Committee poster, Second World War. (Image courtesy of Imperial War Museum.)

“My father used to complain, when they came round, “Another bloody failed farmer coming round and telling me what to do, I know that field won’t grow what we’re being told to grow.”

“We used to take the corn down to Chobham Mill. They would crush it or grind it. Oats were a great favourite in those days. More oats were grown because it was considered the right thing for feeding cattle and horses.

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The Town Mill, Chobham. (Image courtesy of Chobham Village.)

“Mechanisation started around Chobham in the 1950s. Rolfe used to come round with a big Massey Harris tractor and threshing drum, and he used to come to us.

“The Greens used to have someone who came, and they lived in a caravan on wheels. A lot of people did. They travelled in caravans, but they weren’t gypsies. It was because they travelled quite long distances and they didn’t have cars in those days. They would bring the kids quite often.

“They came in autumn, and it was an exciting time of the year. You’d already reaped the harvest. You were taking the proceeds of what you’d planted in the spring. Everything happened in late autumn. That was the end of your farming year. Then you went into winter and everything sort of shut down. You’d look after the stock you hadn’t killed, and if you had cows obviously you’d still milk those.

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Apple pickers at Spratt’s Farm, Ottershaw, 1916.  From left to right; Henry Spong, Benny, George Smith, Sonny Bolton, and Bill West. (Image courtesy Chertsey Museum.)

“The land use has changed totally. Look at the local shows before 1955. They would have mangels, swedes, turnips, and all sorts of produce, like sheaves of corn, to be judged. But after the 50s that all disappeared because there were no more farms producing it.

“In the end of course, even the nurseries went. Containerisation came in and open field nursery work stopped to a large extent. There are only a few little bits here and there. They are all sold up now.

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Hay wagon at Botleys Park, Ottershaw. (Image courtesy Chertsey Museum.)

“I was the last one with cattle in the village. When I sold up that was it. I sold up about 2010. I never went above a 100 head of cattle, but it was mostly it was round about 60 or 70 head. I used to drive cattle through Chobham along the Woking Road.

“There is no farming worth talking about in Chobham now. There is no one in Chobham who is relying on farming for their income.

“The horses came in when ordinary people could afford to have a horse. It started with the 60s. Prior to that if people had horses for pleasure it would only have been wealthier people.

“Chobham is growing horses and houses now.”

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With many thanks to Alan Richardson.