4 MARCH 1949, Page 20

Doves and Vines In a most readable History of Agriculture

(Bell and Sons. 10s. 6d.), Mr. Franklin, the learned author, gives an account of the thirteenth- century manor " with its dovecotes, fish-pond and vineyards." How is it that all these three standard accompaniments of die country house have quite vanished ? Some existed in recent history. There is, for example, Ashwell, a beautiful Hertfordshire village, fathoms deep in history, where the many dovecotes—" bare, ruined choirs "—still bear witness of the bird's popularity. Local historians tell me that the doves were kept by farmers as a source of guano, before such lasting sources of fertility were rejected for " artificials." As to vineyards, they may possibly return. At any rate research workers are beginning to prove that some of the best grapes, slightly encouraged by the protection of portable glass, may be successfully cultivated in any part of southern England, as once at Hatfield, to give one example. As to fishponds (in one of which I knew a pike said to be 50 years old), coarse fish usually grow rapidly for a few years, but thereafter need too much food to pay adequately for their keep. A village where the fishponds are still very visible is Little Gidding, of historic fame, in Huntingdonshire.