Today I did my longest ride yet – a touch over 110 km, from the east coast at Minsmere to my mother and brothers home a little to the east of Kings Lynn. This crosses one of the more productive arable regions of England, so I thought I might show some pictures of the agricultural progression that I have seen during my first 1000 km (that mark was passed today, along with the less welcome mark of my first puncture).

Cornwall, small fields, nearly all livestock and horses
Small fields in Cornwall still, some may be cropped
Devon’s green and pleasant land, more arable, more cows
Not land, but milk tankers take up the whole road. This one and a couple of others caused me to about turn and go back to the nearest passing place – the same with rubbish collection lorries
Somerset, much more arable and the field size gets larger
Somewhere on the Somerset/Wiltshire border
I saw surprisingly few apple orchards in Somerset – the home of English cider. I guess that I was not in the right part of the county
Wiltshire, wide open expansive fields with few trees
The specialised agriculture of water cress beds can be found on the clean chalk streams of Berkshire (and Wiltshire)
In Essex, the fields used to be smaller when I was a kid, but many hedgerows and copses were grubbed out – if I had taken this picture in the 1960s, there would be a small woodland in the foreground with no long view. It had classic woodland flora and was one of my favourite spots. All gone shortly afterwards. Obviously this has gone on for centuries and will continue, except perhaps not for agriculture as much now.
Slightly tangential to this week’s theme – this is a ‘green’ in the middle of a Suffolk village. These areas were classically grazed by livestock during droves – when they were being moved around to or from market. I saw many overgrown commons (or greens) and only one where horses were now grazing. Surely a missed opportunity.
Field poppies are a feature of disturbed ground, and would be in all crops if were not for herbicide spraying. Now they are predominantly in crop margins
Young sugar beet – grown to contract within delivery range of sugar factories. This crop has gone from Essex, but is still present in Norfolk. The factories that remain are surrounded by land that gives less colour taint to the sugar. I think Felsted factory was closed partly because the Essex clay gave more tint than elsewhere (the development potential of the land may also have been a factor!)
Barley growing in Norfolk
Beans growing in Norfolk – for cattle feed and also a good break crop as they feed nitrogen into the soil.
Oil seed rape – after the yellow flowers in the spring, there is a long period as the crop matures. The smell of this crop is everywhere!
Norfolk pig farming

I think that bicycling through Britain confirms that surprising statistic that only 2% of England in build upon. I have been in the countryside and enjoying agricultural sights, sounds and smells almost all of the time. I cannot let this topic go without reference to one of my favourite comedy sketches – apologies to those of my friends not making loads of money!

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