Review of ‘Milk, Muck and Memories’, by Margaret Wombwell

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Margaret Wombwell
Published by Derbyshire County Council Cultural and Community Services Department (2007)

Margaret Wombwell has spent almost five years recording the memories of people living in and around Ashover, gathering this wonderfully rich compendium of farming lives. Contributors tell often humorous stories of life on small mixed dairy farms to create a vivid record of working methods that are fast becoming part of history.

Everything ran according to the season. Young beasts were driven over Beeley Moor to Chatsworth for summer grazing - driven on foot, that is. Then there was muck knocking to be done, moles to be dispensed strychnine ('these mole catcher chaps, they didn't live very long ...'), and a beautifully recalled scene of stacking corn under a brilliant harvest moon - '... about half past ten at night and I didn't want to come home'. At Christmas there were singed and dressed chickens to be packed into cardboard boxes with their 'bits and bobs of giblets' ready to send to relatives - by post.

Children collected fresh ants' eggs for their goldfish, the lengthman kept the lanes ship-shape and a large family of secretive 'novelty people' got on with a way of life '50 years previous to everybody else'.

And much lies behind the milk and muck of the title, not least the baby's bottle filled direct from the cow, or a manure heap that for half a century grew higher and ever higher.

Review by Julie Bunting

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