Evenlode Grounds Farm | Luxury Glamping in the heart of the Cotswolds.
A Brief History of Evenlode Grounds
In his poem, “The Perfect Evenlode”, Hilaire Belloc describes how the little River Evenlode “lingers in the hills” around Moreton-in-Marsh, then meanders through a “hundred little towns of stone” before it flows into the River Thames. The first of these “hundred little towns of stone” the river passes by is the village that gives it its name, the village of Evenlode. The meandering little river forms the western boundary of our farm for a stretch of approximately 2 miles.
On summer evenings, with the sun low in the sky, it is impossible not to notice rows of humps in the fields. There are line upon line of them, some straight and many that curve slightly. What you are seeing are the remnants of an ancient ploughing method that we call ridge and furrow.
In Anglo-Saxon times, families owned strips of land with their neighbours farming adjacent strips. They used oxen to pull their ploughs, horses being mainly used for military purposes. The plough blade cut the turf and forced the soil against a board, which turned it over and moved it sideways. At the end of the field, the oxen would loop round to come back down the field to pile the soil against the first cut. By going round your land in this manner, the effect was to push the soil in towards the middle and create a long heap. Besides increasing the surface area of your strip, it assisted drainage. Over many seasons, the ridge would get higher and the furrow go deeper so it’s no surprise to see them as a prominent feature in the landscape today. It is hard walking across a series of ridge and furrows, as you will find, and you’ll be able to vouch for the effectiveness of the drainage when every furrow can be quite boggy, even in dry weather!
The Woolliams family have farmed and lived at Evenlode Grounds for 120 years (as of typing this in 2017). Walter Harvey Woolliams (known as Harvey) was awarded the tenancy of the farm in the winter of early 1897. It was glebe land and belonged to the Rector of the village. In the agreement, the farm was described as embracing 160 acres with a fine farmhouse and convenient buildings. The rent required by the Rector was £240 per half year (he settled for £230)! He was not allowed to mow more than one third of the grassland and the Rector reserved to himself all the timber on the farm, any potential mines and quarries and the shooting rights. Harvey married a very pretty lady called Elizabeth (Lizzie) and they had three children, Walter, Frank and Mary. Walter apparently was born in our bedroom with snow blowing in through the window! Its not quite as draughty now! I say that she was pretty because a very tragic incident occurred concerning her beauty. A student was helping out on the farm, I am not sure what year this was, but he fell madly in love with Lizzie and, as you can imagine, this obviously caused some sort of rumpus when she rejected him. The outcome was that he shot himself upstairs in the house as he could not bear the thought of a life without her, the faint marks on the elm floorboards are still there.
Harvey gave up his tenancy of the farm in 1913 and this is when it went out of the Woolliams family for just six years. Harvey’s nephew, Robert came along in 1919 and bought the farm from the Rector along with several cottages in the village (sadly they were subsequently sold!). Robert married May Cole and had six children, the youngest being Michael, who lives here today and is Howard’s father.
We now farm approximately 600 acres, mainly cattle and some arable where the land lends itself (ie not the ridge and furrow land as impossible to combine!). Michael, who is married to Betty, is now retired and Howard runs the farm. We sold our dairy herd of 100 cows last summer (2016) and now concentrate on a single suckler herd and this year invested in six luxury en suite cabins to enable other people to come and enjoy this beautiful farm and the surrounding Cotswolds.