ridge and furrow

Ridge and Furrow

Ridge and furrow topography was a result of ploughing with non-reversible ploughs on the same strip of land each year. It is visible on land that was ploughed in the Middle Ages, but which has not been ploughed since then.

In the Middle Ages each strip was managed by one small family, within large common fields and the location of the ploughing was the same each year. The movement of soil year after year gradually built the centre of the strip up into a ridge, leaving a dip, or "furrow", between each ridge. It is thought that the raised ridges offered better drainage. The dip often marked the boundary between plots. Although they varied, strips would traditionally be a furlong (a "furrow-long") in length, (220 yards, about 200 metres), and from about 5 yards (4.6 m) up to a chain wide (22 yards, about 20 metres), giving an area of from 0.25 to 1 acre (0.1 to 0.4 ha).

In most places ploughing continued over the centuries, and later methods removed the ridge and furrow pattern. However, in some cases the land became grassland, and where this has not been ploughed since, the pattern has often been preserved. Surviving ridge and furrow may have a height difference of 18 to 24 in (0.5 to 0.6 m) in places, and gives a strongly rippled effect to the landscape. When in active use, the height difference was even more, over 6 feet (1.8 m) in places.

The Leys Field ridges are indeed 200m if measured from the eastern boundary down to the brook, but given the current size of the field are a maximum of around 140m long. The spacing between ridges on the Leys Field is between 11 and 13 metres. The ridge and furrows in the Rides are at a completely different orientation to those in the Leys confirming the boundary change between the two.

The lands surrounding Compton Verney were cleared and settled with a ridge and furrow field system developed before the Norman Conquest. That land was 90% ploughed in 1279 but by 1500 had been turned over to grassland for pasture and was not ploughed again until the 1940s.