Thirty Years Farming
on the Clifton Park System

How to supply Humus, Texture, and Fertility
by the Aid of Deep-Rooting Grasses


William Lamin
a practical farmer

with a foreword by
C. S. Orwin

Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square

First published in Mcmxliv
by Faber and Faber Limited
24 Russell Square London W.C.]
Second impression April Mcmxlv
Printed in Great Britain by
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved

To the Memory of My Wife

To William Lamin on his Birthday, 28th May 1944, from Duncan Gray

And Now He's Eighty

Schooldays behind, at Arnold and Park Row,
He'd learned to plough and harrow, seed and hoe,
And won a silver goblet for his skill
In ploughing. And nor care had he, nor ill
For he was twenty.

His next decade contained, unwillingly,
A spell of handling beef and mutton. He
Was glad to leave this for the fields once more
When, with his partner's help, sufficient store
Of money garnered in, enabled him
To rent a starveling farm from which a slim
But steadily increasing substance came
In tribute to his power the soil to tame
When he was forty.

Time passed along -- the usual ups and downs
With which a farmer's lifetime work abounds
Experiments with cocksfoot, clover, rye,
And constant hoeing, that all weeds should die.
Improved the soil and added humus. Crops
Increased abundantly; progress but stops
For those who can or will not well assess
The need for patient care whatever stress
May come. Farming then, year by year,
Each season busy with its tasks and care
He waked one morning with surprise to find
Another twenty years had gone like wind
And he was sixty.

So onward down the sunny glade of years
Warmed by achievement, freed from thought of cares,
His life passed smoothly as his favourite cob's
So stately trot. Till suddenly, as when
A summer storm brings winter back again,
Pneumonia came and robbed his body's strength
And though his life it spared, it brought the length
Of farming days to end. Sad blow was this
Followed by still a sadder blow when she
Who close on fifty years, wherever he
Had been, accompanied him, bade him farewell
If only for a time. Life then it seemed
Held nothing more. But life's a curious particle
For with the writing of a farmer's article
A new and scarce begun career renews
His energies. His pen records his views.


Author's Foreword

Chapter 1
A rough sketch of Bottom House Farm -- The four years ley with deep-rooting grasses -- Artificial manures -- Stooking corn -- Leading and stacking

Chapter 2
Working the land under potatoes -- Cleaning and harrowing -- Getting the potatoes up -- Making a pie -- Selling

Chapter 3
Turnips -- Cleaning a crop of turnips -- A farmers' competition -- Barley and oats -- Ploughing8

Chapter 4
Taking over Goosedale Farm -- What the last tenant left -- How to deal with weeds

Chapter 5
Drilling small seeds -- Seeds for a four years ley -- Elliot's mixture -- Ploughing and harrowing after a four years ley -- Handling the seeds

Chapter 6
Leading hay and seeds -- Selling hay -- Threshing and selling barley -- Selling wheat and oats

Chapter 7
Silage -- How to make the carting easy -- Making a silage stack -- Silos and pits? -- Fires -- Cutting a stack

Chapter 8
Buying cattle in Ireland -- Bulling a hundred Irish cows -- Selling fat cattle -- Foot and mouth disease -- Feeding silage to cattle

Chapter 9
Humus -- Compost heaps -- The right grass for dry and sandy districts -- Improved strains of grass

Chapter 10
Artificials and humus -- Sir Albert Howard's opinion -- My own experience -- Mixing artificial manure -- Bagging -- Sir George Stapledon's leafy strains of grasses -- A tribute to R. H. Elliot

Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4

Currency -- Mr Lamin uses the pre-Metric British currency of pounds, shillings and pence, abbreviated as £ = pounds, s. = shillings, p. = pence (pennies). One pound = 20 shillings, one shilling = 12 pence.


by Dr. C. S. Orwin

It used to be the practice of the Royal Agricultural Society of England to organize competitions for the best-managed farms, each year, in the neighbourhood of the place in which its summer meeting was to be held. As the editor of their Journal, it was one of my privileges to prepare reports for the Society upon the prize-winning farms, and that is how I came to meet William Lamin.

In 1915, the Royal Show was held at Nottingham, and the farm competition covered the counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Derbyshire. Mr. Lamin was awarded the second prize in the principal class, that for large farms, mainly in arable cultivation, and in due course I turned up at Bottom House Farm, Bestwood Park, Arnold, some six miles north of Nottingham, to get material for my report. I have a vivid recollection of the impression which the place first made on me -- a hungry, poverty-stricken district, speaking agriculturally, the chief products of which seemed to be colliery chimneys and winding gears. I cannot do better than quote from my report, written the same night, when all my impressions were still fresh:

'The situation is the highest in the locality, and colliery chimneys meet the eye in almost every direction, whilst the air is rarely free from smoke. Here is a large tract of land, running right away from the road, composed of a blowing sand fined with pebbly stones, which in many hands. would go derelict, but which, in the hands of a very energetic and capable man, is contributing its full share to the country's food supply. The homestead is unfavourably placed at one end of the farm, and the buildings are none too good, neither are they well planned.

'The management may be said to be based upon a long seed-ley of deep-rooting plants, which supplies the humus in which this soil is so deficient, and helps to fix the loose sand. Fertility is further kept up by heavy dressings of artificials and frequent liming. The seeds are followed by light but regular crops of corn, and by potatoes. The tenant attributes the whole possibility of success to his seeds. These are a sort of Elliot's mixture.

'The tenant has proved that sheep are not essential in the management of very light land, as is commonly held. Indeed, it would be difficult for any sheep farmer on such a farm to show a turnover approaching Mr. Lamin's. There are no sheep at all on this farm.

'In this great industrial centre the labour question might well appear alarming, but Mr. Lamin has studied the organization of farm labour and his success in this direction raises the suspicion that the difficulty so commonly complained of [speaking, of course, of pre-war times] may be due as much to lack of study and organization on the part of the farmer, as to incompetence or indifference on the labourers' part, or to an actual shortage.'

Here, then, was a farm which would have daunted most farmers -- bad land, badly laid out, buildings in bad condition and badly planned -- which the industry, determination, and intelligence of the. tenant had turned into an efficient food-producing and profit-making concern. It was here that I first saw the rare practice of ploughing round and round big fields, so that there was no opening and finishing to be done; here, that J first heard it argued and demonstrated that light, blow-away land could be farmed and kept in good heart without sheeping; here, that I saw a potato grower on a large scale who kept no pigs, but fed all his 'pig' potatoes to bullocks; here, too, that I first saw Elliot's grass mixtures in use on anything larger than an experimental plot (Mr. Lamin had some 150 acres of them every year), the seed-ley being the foundation of the farming system.

In the following pages, Mr. Lamin has written a vivid account of the methods and experiences which led him to a triumphant success in handling some of the worst soil in cultivation in what is one of the poorer agricultural districts of the Midlands. It is a record of technical skill which should be an education and a stimulus to any farmer, a story which should delight the general reader as a human document of great interest. It describes an achievement which places William Lamin's name upon the roll of the pioneers of British agriculture.

Author's Foreword

When I retired from farming, about five years ago, I came to live in Nottingham. About a year ago, I lost my wife, and after that blow I was often very lonely at night, and my next-door neighbour would come in several evenings a week for a game of crib. We would get talking about farming, and the way in which most of the land was losing its humus, texture, and fertility, and one night he suggested that I should write a book on this subject. So, with a certain amount of diffidence, I here give my views on the subject; they are the result of my experiences during my farming life.

I consider that the key to the solution of our difficulties in British Agriculture after the present war is to be found in the production of ample good turf by the aid of deep-rooting plants in our herbage. It must be remembered that livestock and livestock products accounted for about 70 per cent of the total cash value of the produce raised on British farms before the present war, and -- as I see the position -- the percentage will have to be even greater after the war is over.

Also, surely the best and cheapest food for livestock is well-produced grass, in the first instance in the form of good grazings, and, secondly, as conserved crops in the form of well-made hay and silage. I venture to suggest that we shall only be able to produce this and at the same time retain the humus, the texture and the fertility in our land by periodically ploughing in a good turf produced by the aid of the deep-rooting grasses. I earnestly suggest that the time is long overdue when we should drastically revise many of the seed mixture prescriptions being put out by our grassland experts. Whether I am right or wrong in my contention, I leave all practical farmers to judge after having read my account of over thirty years' successful farming on that principle.

I appeal also to all farmers to obtain a copy of Robert Elliot's Clifton Park System of Farming, and study it closely, for his system is a sound one whether it is used for the purpose of bringing light land back into good heart or whether the system is required to open up heavy clay land.

My best thanks are due to Dr. C. S. Orwin for reading the script and giving his opinion on it and writing a foreword. The reason I wanted Dr. Orwin's opinion was he had been over the farm in 1915 and had seen the way we were improving the farm by the aid of the deep-rooting grasses.

I am also most grateful to Mr. John Woollam, of Boots the chemists, Nottingham, for his help in arranging the book and getting it published; to Mr. Duncan Gray, the City Librarian of Nottingham, but for whose instigation and encouragement this book would never have been written; and to my daughter-in-law, Mrs. A. Howard Lamin, for her help in arranging and typing the script.

In writing this book I have used a number of terms and turns of speech which I am told might not always be readily understood by readers without farming experience. They will seem simple enough to any practical farmer, as he will have known them all his life, but for the convenience of readers who have never worked a farm themselves I have added some explanatory footnotes.

Next: Chapter 1

Back to Contents

Back to Small Farms Library index

Community development | Rural development
City farms | Organic gardening | Composting | Small farms | Biofuel | Solar box cookers
Trees, soil and water | Seeds of the world | Appropriate technology | Project vehicles

Home | What people are saying about us | About Handmade Projects 
Projects | Internet | Schools projects | Sitemap | Site Search | Donations | Contact us