Ridge and Furrow

Ridge and furrow is a term used to describe the earthen ridges and troughs that are created by the action of prolonged ploughing, which caused soil to build up in regularly spaced ridges along the length of a field.

Typically, this was a method of cultivation characteristic of the medieval period and later. It is commonly identified by the broad reverse s-shaped undulations that were created by an ox drawn plough, as it cut and turned the soil over. The ox team needed plenty of space to turn at the end of each furrow because, by ploughing in a slight curve, the plough could start to turn before the furrow had been completed. This enabled it to be turned and brought back around into the curve of the preceding ridge.

The width of the ridge and furrow can be indicative of its date of formation. For example narrow cord rig ridge and furrow is associated with late prehistoric ploughing, whereas post-medieval ridge and furrow was created by a steam driven plough, which did not require so much space to turn, so it has narrower and straighter ridges and furrows.

Genuine ridge and furrow is quite rare in Surrey. However extensive ridge and furrow earthworks are preserved in the pasture of the former Ledgers Park, Chelsham. They clearly show that some form of arable cultivation, possibly of a primitive common field type was practised sometime before the parkland was created around 1830. The site can be clearly seen on aerial photographs.

Aerial photograph of ridge and furrow at Ledgers Park, Chelsham

Aerial photograph of ridge and furrow at Ledgers Park, Chelsham

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