7 SEPTEMBER 1951, Page 18

The Vale of Marshwood

The Vale of Marshwood lies over the Dorset border, and is a seques- tered countryside of the laughing hills of the Lias. A wild jocose anarchic diversity of shape makes a festival of them, though one can pin down a very few recurring types, the cone with its,-jaunty feathering of pines, the flat-topped like an open gate-legged table. The intense eccentricity of these Biblical hills is enhanced by a circumference of greensand heights such as sphinx-like Pilsdon Pen and Lewesdon wearing its cloak of woodland Elizabethan-fashion, and the great tranquil shapely bosses of the chalk hills to the east, Wind, whistle, Eggardun and their classic company. In the pockets and among the winding corridors of this liassic carnival of hills lie the steadings of the family farmers .of the region, and that is why you see more mixed livestock to the acre here than in a square mile of the Wiltshire downland—Dorset Horns and Hampshire Downs, dual-purpose Red Devons, geese, poultry, bees, even goats and horses. The land, too, is intensively cultivated with roots, wheat, oats, orchards and leys, but what -is still more enticing about it is that it is a flax country, the flaX-mills at Lopen, Devizes and Netherbury (though this by now may be closed) being handy for it.‘ In 1945, I helped to judge the flax-ricks of West Dorset, and because I love this country, have known it for. thirty years and believe it to be more individually and traditionally rural-than any other region of the- west except the Radnorshire foothills, let me -commend to its sturdy small farmers the rearing of motherless lambs on goat's milk, a successful and most desirable experiment in view of the sheep-holocaust of 1947 and because at long last the imbecility of sheep being " uneconomic " is in process of being rectified.