22 NOVEMBER 1930, Page 38


Near one of these ex-orchards of some two acres, which contained exactly two antique trees much more horizontal than vertical, stretches a forty or fifty acre marsh : " the haunt of coot and hem," or at any rate of snipe and duck. All round it are fields enjoying that rich red soil which delights the cultivator's eyes, whether he grows arable crops or grass. The tale of their degeneration was given by a local labourer. He remembered the time when a part of the marsh (now covered with rush and reed, and heavy with the reek of the water mint) was good ploughland. In his view it could become good ploughland again, or at any rate good grass without any other reclamation than the clearing of the ditches. These acres relapsed solely from deficiency in what used to be called estate management. No land, which so much as tends to dampness, can survive in any quality the neighbourhood of choked ditches. Not less than a million acres—the statis- ticians tell me—are in the state of this western marsh. To clean ditches here would be as beneficent as the digging of the tunnels fca: electric wires, and as fit a task for the unem- ployed.

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