LOWER WOOTON FARM, HEREFORDSHIRE, CIRCA 1965
LOWER WOOTON FARM is a designated historic property near Almely, Herefordshire, England. When I first visited the farms back in 1960 the farm was just a name…no directions, no real address. But Grandma and Granddad Freeman talked about the place regularly back in Canada and since I was
working in Ireland the chance to find Lower Wooden Farm presented itself. I was travelling blind. Flew to London when Irish job was over then took a train from London to Hereford and then stood on the platform, a confused and obviously lost 22 year old Canadian.
“Can I help you?” offered a man on the same platform.
“Maybe, Have you ever heard off Lower Wooton Farm?”
“Sure, Cyril and Nancy Griffiths live there, a council farm…very old”
“Is it far?”
“Maybe half an hour away…twisting roads….I am going that way, would you accept a lift?”
He was a local bank manager and delivered me right to the farm. Pure luck. That was 1960. Five or six years later Marjorie, Eric and I played a return visit. And we were treated royally. Since the farm is historic, the Griffiths could not make any changes. As a result Lower Wooton farm was like a time machine…rolling back I believe to the 16th century (but not sure of that).
Nancy Griffiths and Marjorie are in the tiny ancient kitchen plucking the feathers from two chickens freshly killed for us.
David Griffiths, their son, became a good friend and we have shared much over the years. Sadly Cyril and Nancy are gone now. But David and his wife Shelagh and the boys Charles and Alun are thriving but no longer tenant farmer on Lower Wooton Farm.
The woman in the black sweater…Polly Griffiths…was the link that made the rediscovery possible. Polly and Louisa Freeman (my grandmother) exchanged letters for half a century both remembering their years as part of the grand Eywood Estate…a 1500 estate near Kington that had similarities to Downton Abbey. The manor house, a grand building, had just been demolished a few years earlier. The gardens, however, where Granddad was head gardener in the early 20th century, were still intact. Grandad’s name was even prominent on the espaliered peach trees in the glass encased south facing wall of the bricked enclosure. Granddad was glad to leave England for Canada around1908 ‘got tired of tipping his hat to his betters’ as he once said to me. Life on the English grand estates was a matter of class. More of that later.
Nancy’s small horse took liberties it seems
When we arrived on Lower Wooton farm in 1965 there as a bit of trouble. A cow was having trouble getting calf out of her womb. A breached birth.
“Boys, give a hand.”
“Hold this rope while I reach in the womb and get a loop around the back legs.”
“Now pull, firmly but gently the moment she goes through another effort…now…now.”
“It’s coming…legs are out.”
“Keep the tension.”
“OUT CAME THE CALF…FLEW THROUGH THE AIR AND LANDED ON ERIC WHO STILL WAS WEARING
HIS BEST TRAVELLING CLOTHES. A LOT OF GUCK. I THINK THE CALF WAS ALIVE…but that is a long time ago.
After that there were other things to do, like moving this lead of straw after a threshing. Eric and Cyril in the foreground. David on the load above. Marjorie
was not here…she was being trailed by the pony as if it was imprinted and thought Marjorie was a mare.
Animals on Lower Wooten Farm were treated as pets…except for the two chickens being plucked above.