Last week we put the Devon yearlings into what we call Drovers Field. This is a small but long paddock below the old ruin and on the edge of the woodland at Grabbishaw. The cattle love it there. They are sheltered from the weather by the overhanging branches of the trees, are quiet and undisturbed, have plentiful meadow grass to feed on and drink from the fast running stream at the bottom of the field.
Why Drovers Field? Well, an elderly farm labourer told us that the “ride” or raised woodland road which runs for half a mile at the side of the field was an ancient drovers road which was used to “drive” or “drove” sheep and cattle to market before the days of motorised transport. In those days the cattle were often shod, like horses are nowadays, to protect their hooves from the effects of the long walk! Drovers roads are still evident in places like Salisbury Plain where cattle were driven up to market in London, but are less evident in Devon. However, we were told that this was indeed a drovers road.
Is that true? We don’t know. But there is some evidence: a line of overgrown coppiced hazel trees along the edge of the road. These coppiced hazel branches would have been split and used to make hurdles to enclose the sheep at night. Maybe we should do some historical research to look for more evidence.
Meanwhile our Red Ruby Devons are very happy eating the lush grass in Drovers Field, whatever its history!