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Feudal Brampton

January 22, 2012

For a thousand years the extent of the arable land in Brampton has remained as it was defined in the Doomsday Book. That Norman record reduced the economic activity of the feudal settlement to a single paragraph. The plough lands were said to extend to a Caracute and a Virgate. (A Caracute being an area equivalent to that which could be ploughed by eight oxen in one season and a Virgate being the amount ploughable by two oxen in a season). Thus totalling around 150 acres of better drained land

The actual extent of the plough lands can be roughly estimated today from a large scale OS map as long as you adopt some basic rules. For example, start near the Church as the assumed centre of the village; assume that the modern roads follow ancient routes; ignore the Victorian railway line and trust the line shown as the Parish boundary. If we use the known field names encompassing Hall and Street Farms the area coincides with those known as Church Field, Seven Acres, Kiln Field, Hill Field, Winter Letts, Topletts and the Town Field. It is a very neat fit and 150 acres looms out of the plan.

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Fox call

January 22, 2012

On Tuesday morning, what seemed like an artificial cackle announced the arrival of a pair of foxes at the end of the garden. The fox conversation continued in a more traditional manner, yelps and barks in what seemed to be a playful chase along the edge of a nearby field. The noise cut into our sleep like an alarm. Thoughts such as, “were the hens shut up safely?”, raced through our heads. The foxes moved off after quarter of an hour or so, that is if one can judge the passing of time in flood of wakefulness at 4 in the morning

Frost

January 22, 2012

A fine frosty morning, in fact the first real frost of this year so far; grasses on the Common carrying a delicate filigree of ice. Almost too fine and delicate to consider walking on. The Bure flows slowly through the beds of reed and cress, calm and unsullied by any waterfowl. The occasional Snipe wisps org from the margins with its strange stuttering alarm call, it’s delicate feather pattern seems crisp and etched in the clear cold light. The scent of a prowling fox hangs by the river.

Wind blow to history

January 7, 2012

Strong winds on Wednesday almost erased another little-noticed piece of Brampton’s history. An apple tree, rotten of trunk and with no crown to speak of, displays what must be a terminal split. Structurally unsound, but still just standing, it seems unlikely that it will survive for much longer. It’s significance being that it’s origins seem likely to be domestic; planted at the end of a garden or small holding in an area which seems today to be just farmland. I mentioned the site in an earlier piece (6th November 2011) and I have yet to establish the real recent history of this site.
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The ancient history of the site is much easier to identify. For the old apple tree marks the edge of ancient track which leads to what seems to have been a wharf or loading area on the original shore of the Bure. This was not the Bure as we know now, but the Roman waterway, bustling with shallow drafted sailing vessels collecting the amphorae and other pottery from the nearby industrial town with its many kiln. Within yards the astute observer can cast from the site of a rural dwelling of the nineteenth century to the fourth century AD.

Fear and Grebes

January 1, 2012

Dabchicks flee as soon as we approach. Flight is perhaps the wrong word, as they never try to get airborne; instead they propel themselves along the surface of the water in a whir of wing beats and skittering feet until they feel safe enough to dive and find underwater shelter in the bank side weeds. Once there they hide until they can be certain of your passing – preferably at least thirty yards away. You can rarely see them as you glance back towards their hiding place. Aquatic hide and no seek.

Finches

January 1, 2012

Finches flock along the Bure on a frosty morning. Goldfinches working hard on the river side Alders, but no sign of any Linnets so far. In fact thinking about the Brampton finch population the Linnets have declined but Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Bullfinches seem to be doing very well. The riverside Goldfinch flock was ten strong. In the garden similar numbers of Greenfinches form raiding parties on the feeders. The Bullfinches are more elusive but are common in their favoured haunts along the railway line and in the allotment hedgerows.