b'but not many for why it is a reversed-S.The Open Field Farming System:After reading a range of books and articles on the In a Nutshell topic I had almost given up finding a convincing and conclusive explanation. Then I was given a copy of an article by S. R. Eyre called The Curving Plough-The open field farming system is characterisedstrip 2 .by the existence of a number of large,Eyre recounts 3 popular explanations for the hedgeless, arable fields (typically three as incurved form of ridge and furrow:Bishop Wilton but the number varied over1.Curvature prevented rapid run off of water and the country as a whole) with each individualsconsequent serious soil erosion. holdings scattered throughout those fields2.The long medieval plough-team of 8 or moreas strips (so that there was a fair spread ofoxen yoked in pairs was cumbersome to turn types of land). One of the fields would be leftat the end of the furrow so the ridge had to be fallow for a year and crops would be rotatedcurved at the ends.in the others. There were common rules for3.The curvature reduced the width of thecultivation which were administered andheadland needed to turn the plough-team i.e. enforced by a communal court. Grazing rightsit needed to be no wider than 4 oxen which were allocated on a communal basis over theallowed the pairs to turn.arable fields; in the fallow field, for instance, andEyre discounts all three explanations because after harvest in the fields that were cropped.they do not necessitate the curve being a reversed-S In addition to arable land it was typical forshape. Added to which the first explanation is not there to be pasture land, and meadow landsupported by the fact that ridge and furrow, he says, for winter feed, for which rights were allocateddoes not always run in a way that either facilitates or communally. Farmers worked side by side andprevents rapid drainage where land slopes.shared resources. The system came to anEyre poses the question as to why there is a turn end, township by township, with enclosure; into the left at all, when ploughing a ridge in a clockwise 1772 for Bishop Wilton. Although the date ofdirection necessitates an eventual turn to the right? commencement of the system probably variedHis answer is that the ploughman has to turn a furrow over the country, the origins are thought to dateup-hill on the slope of the ridge and that this is made back to the 9th century Saxon era. more difficult if the direction of the plough deviates sharply to the right (the mould-board is pulled away effectively and the furrows acted as ditches. Thefrom the slice, evidently) as it would have to do if the second is that the furrows, which became moreturn at the end was made to the right as opposed to pronounced after continual ploughing, demarcatedthe left. Also, the manoeuvring of the plough-team one individuals strip from another and it was aonce on the headland was easier if done first to the necessity of the open field farming system that thisleft and then with an about-turn to the right as this demarcation was clear. way the plough didnt impede the oxen.Most of the explanations, and Eyres is no Ridge & Furrow: Why is it the shape itexception, require reliance on the originators knowledge of ploughing. Whilst I have to take that is? on trust, the dynamics of what Eyre is saying seem It can be seen from the accompanying aerialconvincing.photograph that ridge and furrow in the townshipAs Eyre says in his article,the ploughman, at of Bishop Wilton conforms to the characteristic,one time, must have found it convenient to plough elongated, reversed-S shape even though somefurrows of reversed-S shape. Frustratingly no instances are not as pronounced as others. It is trueone saw fit to record an explanation, as a careful to say that some ridge and furrow in the country asexamination of ancient tracts on agriculturehas a whole (and there may be some in Bishop Wilton)yielded no direct explanation for the form of the is straight as opposed to curved. But evidentlyancient ploughlands.where it is curved the shape is most commonly theFor the time being, at least, Eyres explanation reversed-S. satisfies me!The question as to why it is curved at all and whyRidge & Furrow: The Dimensionsit is a reversed-S (as opposed to a simple S, a C or a reversed C) is the one that has interested me the mostThe ridges in Figure 1 vary in width. Where these and it is the single most important justification for thisridges are contemporary it may illustrate the difference article. There are numerous explanations for the curvebetween broad and narrow strips (see Alan 2S. R. Eyre, 1955.BULLETIN 14 259'