It's not only the names that have changed. . .

THERE are regular debates about preserving tradition and the rural way of life yet this is often by those who have little real knowledge or understanding of it.

Rarely spoken of is the retaining of local language and dialects, surprising when we are so fortunate in this region to have so rich a Nordic descent and Old Germanic base to our language.

These views and, of course, many more came to the fore when interviewing Michael Iveson earlier in the year when I attempted to establish his identity and heritage.

Michael went on to explain how so many Dales surnames (and in fact those throughout North Yorkshire) were directly descended from Nordic times.

His own, of course, is one such name but others such as Alderson is only one other example.

However, the less common surname of Whorley is of Flemish origin and it might be equally interesting to trace and discover when the family name 'Theakston' first appeared in our region or what about the Abel family? (Nowadays even spelt several different ways by distant members of the same family).

However, getting back to Michael. One fact that is certain is that Michael was born at Mineral Farm, Dacre (near Pateley Bridge) as was his father Tom before him.

The farm also enjoyed an allotment on Hayshaw Moor (more of the preserved Nordic language) for summering sheep.

For those who know 'allotments' as vegetable plots, in farming terms this is an enclosed area of rough grazing and are quite different to the sheepgrazing rights of 'gaits'.

It all gets a bit complicated if you are not born and bred to their way of life and language.

Each field or block of land had its own name, (equally to the holdings themselves) though so much of the aformentioned is now lost forever.

In the case of Mineral Farm Michael fondly remembered names such as 'Back O Dobby's', 'Tother side O t' side', Black Heath (so called because of its peaty soil), 'Daisy Pasture' and 'Dicks Pasture' (so called because of the horses who had spent much of their lives grazing in them).

At the low side of the farm a large parcel of land about 20 acres was known as Belland, allegedly because of its mining association in the past.

Also, as far as Michael is aware the farm itself was once called Belland Farm, (another scholarly question) though how and when it was renamed Mineral Farm is not clear perhaps this in fact is the mining connotation.

The farm next door used to be known as 'Hole Bottom', but now has a much posher name of 'White House Farm' which tells nothing of the local topography both past and present.

What is also so significant about the tradition Michael talked about is the fact that for many generations the way of life had changed very little, with routines and knowledge passed from father to son, (or mother to daughter or vice versa).

In fairness, change has always been an on-going part of rural life from the time of hunter gatherers to the life Michael remembers as a boy.

It is, perhaps, the pace of this life and the pace of change that is so significant.

As Michael highlighted, the rural way of making the best use of their environments and wasting nothing excepting the squeal of the pig provided a very sustainable economy and applied to more than just food.

One example of this is how dry bracken was harvested and used in winter as stock bedding in regions where straw was not abundant.

Stone-picking in meadows provided rubble for filling in pot holes in farm tracts and roads and perhaps dry-stone wall repairs.

Also, as different regions had different natural resources, this accounts for stone slates, clay tiles and thatch as regional roofing materials.

As we discussed it is difficult, however, to precisely claim when the true Agrarian Revolution came into being.

Some might claim it was due to the Industrial Revolution, others the farming breakthroughs of Bakewell and Townsend and Coke or the advent of the prairies of America and Canada becoming such highly productive wheat growing areas.

Perhaps it was, indeed, the Second World War or the advent of PTOs (power take offs) and hydraulics on tractors?

It could, however, easily be claimed that Michael's generation have seen a greater advancement in farming technology than perhaps any other.

During this period farmers moved from carrying out most chores by hand with only the aid of the horse and cart to the advent of the tractor becoming a common item, the milking machine, the muck spreader, the hay bailer and so on.

Also, of course, this equipment has become ever increasingly sophisticated and there are by definition a declining number of farmers who can totally remember the old order that farmers of 50 years of age and under have never actually experienced any more than their town countertparts.