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Nell Tolley - The harvest in Exwick

Late Summer to Autumn was a busy time on Exwick Farm - with the harvest to be brought in, all cereals were grown in the fields high above the village, corn, oats and barley.

When harvested they were transported down the lanes by horse and cart, to the barns in the farm yard, there to await the threshing machine. Men came from an over the village to help at these times and it was quite a social affair, with plenty of cider to quench the thirst. The apple harvest also had to be brought in. There were orchards all through the valley which is now Kinnerton Way, with apple and plum trees.

Some apples were taken into the farm where the cider press was housed, this was not the sort of press where the apples were stacked between layers of straw then screwed down until the juice was extracted, it we worked by horse power. The horse would be harnessed to what looked like a large wooden bar, which was attached to the spindle that turned the mill stone with a trough underneath, the apples would be rolled down a ramp from the loft above into the trough below and the horse would walk slowly round and round with the stone squeezing the juice out. This was then put into barrels and left until it we ready to drink. Some would be sweet and some was known as rough cider, but most local people called the drink Scrumpy.

Once all the produce had been brought in and dealt with it was time for Harvest Festival at St Andrews Church, everyone wore their best clothes to church and the ladies and girls all wore hats or covered their heads.The church was always full on special festivals and at that time we had a very good choir.

There were no tins or packets of soup etc. because apart from farm produce almost everyone had a garden and so the church was full of almost every kind of fruit and vegetable you could imagine. There would also be flowers and sheaves of corn for decoration and of course the big harvest loaf with its plaited decoration and the little harvest mouse made by a local baker.

This event would have been followed by a Harvest Supper which I believe was held in the Parish Hall although I don't remember ever going to this myself.

Following this, I suppose, would be All Souls Day or Halloween as it seems to be called now. I don't recall as a small child knowing much about this as we certainly would not have been allowed out after dark as children are today to Trick or Treat.

I suppose, as today, once harvest is over then Christmas is not far behind - I think I shall have to leave my memories of that for the next edition of the newsletter.

© 2011 Nell Tolley

These memories of Nell Tolley were originally published in the Guinness Newsletter and is reproduced with the permission of the author.

Leslie Travender, the framer and his wife.Exwick Farm - the cider press was in the buildings to the right.

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