British Boys for British Farms

Posted on Thursday 16th November 2017

Given the recent reports of vegetables rotting in fields due to staff shortages allegedly caused by Brexit, we thought perhaps it's time to revisit this idea from the 1930s;

(click on picture for full pdf)

British Boys for British Farms



UNDER an agreement made with the Ministry of Labour, dated September 4th, 1934, arrangements were made with the Community Services Department of the Y.M.C.A. for training and placing unemployed boys in farm work. The scheme under which this work is carried out is known as "The British Boys for British Farms "scheme. The agreement applies to its operation during the five years ending March 31st, 1939, and although only three years have elapsed since the signing of this new agreement, the scheme has actually been in operation since September 1932. We therefore have four and a half years' experience upon which to base the following observations concerning this scheme, and we have no hesitation in saying that so far it has proved surprisingly successful.


When migration to the Dominions ceased in 1932, the Y.M.C.A. was confronted with the problem of "what to do" with the many hundreds of boys who were clamouring at its doors to be given an opportunity to take up an outdoor life. The Association was faced with four questions:


1. Would the boys who were asking us to send them to farm work overseas, be as ready to take up farm work in this country if an opportunity could be given them?

2. Was there any demand amongst the farmers at home for this type of farm help?

3.Would English farmers be as ready to take these boys into their own homes as Canadian farmers had been, treating them as farm learners, and be patient enough to give them a chance to make good?

4.Could this be done without displacing any local farm workers, and without our being accused of providing cheap labour?


After exhaustive enquiries, the Y.M.C.A. Community Services Committee satisfied itself that all four questions could be answered satisfactorily. The record of the past four years confirms this opinion, and the following brief statistics support this view:


Written applications from boys wishing to take up farm                                     3,189

work, sent in with parents' consent


Boys now in training ...                                                                                 60


Training discontinued-unsuitable for farm work                                                 174


Total trained and placed to date                                                                 1,055


Placed on farms-trained and untrained                                                     1,141


Total given up farming                                                                                 312


Replacements to date                                                                                   1,107


Farmers who have had boys                                                                       1,279


Farmers approved, awaiting boys                                                              25


Total enquiries from farmers                                                                      1,852





The records show that the greater proportion of the rejections after trial took place in the early stages of the scheme. There are several explanations for this, but the most satisfactory point to be noted in this connection is that the number of rejections has steadily decreased. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that our recruiting officers are finding it increasingly difficult to secure recruits of the necessary physical standard, which makes our work in the reconditioning and training process unnecessarily heavy. This could be obviated if the suggestions made regarding the extension of the areas were carried into effect.




At no time since the inception of the scheme have we had any difficulty in finding the necessary number of positions required for the placement of these boys. The areas in which placements are affected have so far been confined to parts of Yorkshire and to the south of England. We have not yet exhausted by a considerable margin the possibilities in the counties so far touched, and there are yet large areas in Sussex, the south Midlands and Leicestershire, where recent investigations reveal a very definite demand for this type of farm help. There are approximately 150,000 farmers in the country; we have talked with (or received enquiries from) only 1,852. The reports received from the farmers indicate a growing satisfaction on their part with the kind of farm labour we are able to supply. With the continued migration of the country-bred boy into the town, the shortage of the type of farm help which this scheme provides is decidedly acute in many parts of the country. Since the beginning of the scheme we have never once been able to supply the demands made upon us, and have continuously had a waiting list of farmers. At the present moment it stands at twenty-five.


It is noteworthy that of the boys who have given up farm work and gone into other occupations, we know of none who are un-employed. In all these cases, it has been because of the inducement by parents or others to take up more lucrative occupations and reports from the boys themselves show a marked increase in their fondness for farm work. The doubts and suspicions both on the part of the farmers and of the boys, which were evident at the beginning of this scheme, are fast disappearing.


The methods of securing jobs with the farmers have been very satisfactorily altered, which probably explains the change of mind above expressed. Whereas at the commencement of the scheme it was necessary for us to advertise in the journal of the National Farmers' Union, and in the columns of the Farmer and Stockbreeder, now we have no necessity whatsoever to adopt these methods, and contact with new farmers is almost wholly through those with whom we are now co-operating. The latter, being satisfied with the boys we send them, recommend us to their friends, or their neighbours enquire where they can obtain similar help.


We therefore have no hesitancy in saying that we shall have no difficulty, if the necessary funds are available, in increasing the number of boys trained and placed under this scheme to 500 per annum which the Ministry of Labour has asked us to recruit.




Perhaps one of the reasons for the present satisfactory state of the "British Boys for British Farms" scheme is the immense amount of time spent in after-care work. In order to make sure that the boys are placed in an environment and under conditions in which they likely to give their best, it has been necessary during the period under review to effect 1,107 replacements. Every farm is visited before placement, and all the boys are visited within a few months of their placement.


Great care is taken in the choice of the areas where placement is made, in order to avoid any possibility of displacing existing labour or of prejudicing the engagement of local unemployed agricultural labour. Similarly, care is taken to ensure that boys are paid not less than the wages prescribed by the Agricultural Wages Committee. A recent analysis shows that the boys on an average are receiving 25 per cent. more than the minimum wages laid down.


Experience goes to show that in the areas where we are operating, there is no difficulty whatever in securing good wage conditions, providing the boys are able to measure up to what is required of them, and are willing to learn.




The average cost of taking a boy from his home town; paying his transportation to the hostel and thence to his farm; providing him with a suitable outfit of clothes; meeting all incidental expenditure, e.g. medical, dental, etc.; maintaining him at the hostel for an average of ten weeks; meeting the cost of instruction and of eighteen months' after-care work, also other expenditure incidental to replacement, together total approximately £20 per head, as shown by the audited statement of accounts for 1936.


In view of the satisfactory nature of the present working of the scheme, the Y.M.C.A. strongly appeals to sympathetic friends to support our immediate extension of the "British Boys for British Farms scheme. The Association is prepared to undertake the work and make the necessary additions to its recruiting and after-care staff, but this can only be done if the funds are forthcoming from new sources.


Young England


Poetry is crystallised thought, and when the poet says ... "the child is father to the man” he envisages the result of a complete educational system in one line. This succinct summary is materially correct and the quotation may invoke a different line of thought in the mind of every reader. One important aspect of this problem forms the subject of the leading article in this issue of THE ESTATE MAGAZINE, and members who wish to subscribe to the work of the organisation mentioned, for which funds are urgently needed, are requested to forward contributions to Sir Henry McMahon, Y.M.C.A. Com-munity Services, 4 Great Russell Street, W.C.1.

Undesirable Lodger

Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017

From the letters' page of our October 1957 Estate Magazine; a letter from a member requesting advice on how to deal with an "Undesirable Lodger".


Undesirable Lodger


I should be grateful for your advice on the following matter: The tenant of a three-bedroomed cottage on this estate has recently permitted his married daughter to reside in the house, after deserting her husband and leaving his home a few months ago. This daughter, who is employed at a local cinema, brings home American Servicemen, whose cars remain outside the house all night. The tenancy agreement does not permit lodgers, and in any case there is no room available, as the house is already occupied by the tenant and his wife and son. As this behaviour is causing some comment and is bringing the property into disrepute, I shall be glad if you will kindly let me know if it would be advisable for the landlord to take any action in warning the tenant. Member 420.



(Reply .}-You will know that the Rent Acts, while giving a general protection to tenants, provide for an Order for Possession upon specified grounds; and the Rent Act, 1957, has not altered this provision. One of the grounds is "that the tenant or someone living with him has by his conduct been a nuisance to adjoining occupiers ·or has been convicted of using the house for immoral or illegal purposes " (see First Schedule of the 1933 Rent Act). Quite likely you could get an order for possession on the nuisance ground from the County Court Judge; and your telling the tenant that you contemplate an application might achieve much. The ground, ·" breach of a condition of the tenancy," the breach being the taking of a lodger, is also available.


How to Grow Fine Roses

Posted on Friday 10th November 2017

Article from our 1917 Estate Book, by HC Davidson author of 'The Book of the Home'


IN buying roses it is a common practice to select varieties which have attracted attention at shows, the result not infrequently being disappointment. For although what are called exhibition roses are sometimes excellent for garden decoration, they very often are not. We want in the garden many flowers rather than flowers of enormous size, and the things rarely, if ever, go together. We want them, too, to be carried erect on stout stalks, a point which cannot be investigated when they are laid on an exhibition board, and we want them to be produced for as long a period as possible. Other desirable qualities are beauty of form and colour, fragrance, hardiness, and power to resist disease, especially mildew. We may not get them all combined in the same variety, but that should be our aim.


Here are a few of the best garden roses which flower in autumn as well as in summer: Frau Karl Druschki, Mrs. R. G. Sharman-Crawford, Suzanne M. Rodocanachi, Ulrich Brunner, Viscountess Folkestone, La France, Caroline Testout, Madame Abel Chatenay, Madame Ravary, White Maman Cochet, Corallina, and Marie van Houtte. With them may be included the following climbers : Alister Stella Gray, Bouquet d'Or, Climbing Caroline Testout, Gloire de Dijon, William Allen Richardson, and the dwarfer Fellenberg, Gustave Regis, and Trier. From this list the newer and more expensive varieties have been omitted.


Many persons are deterred from growing roses by the fact that their soil is comparatively light. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that clay is necessary. Many of the leading rose-growers have no clay on their land. For very vigorous varieties it is useful because its firmness offers some resistance to root penetration, and thus, by checking growth, promotes flowering, whilst its retention of moisture in dry weather is also valuable. But any soil may be made firm by ramming and may be kept moist by watering. When this is done clay is not necessary. Indeed, delicate roses, such as teas, do better in lighter soil. When they have to be planted in clay, some form of grit, such as road scrapings, should be mixed with it.


Success with roses depends in no slight degree on the method of planting them. The ground should be deeply dug and heavily manured. When the plants arrive from the nursery they should be carefully examined, and any damaged parts of the roots should be cut off with a sharp knife, the object being to prevent suckers, which almost inevitably spring from a wound. Dwarf roses are budded close to the base of the stem, and when they are planted the junction should be about two inches below the surface. If they should afterwards be killed down to the ground by frost, there will still be a chance that two or three buds on the scion remain alive. The roots should be laid fiat and spread well out; some grit should be sprinkled over •them ; finally, the soil should be placed over them and made firm. In the case of standards, they should be tied to stakes at once.


If the weather happens to be mild some of the buds may begin to grow soon after planting. In any case they will probably do so towards the end of February or early in March. At the sight of the new growth their owner may be tempted to prune them, but the temptation should be resisted. For these growing buds are really so many safety valves for the sap. If they are injured by frost no harm will be done, for they would be cut away later in the ordinary course of pruning. If, however, they are cut away too soon, the lower buds will start to grow, and if these are killed the plants may be spoiled. The best time to prune is the end of March for hybrid perpetuals and from the beginning to the middle of April for teas.


The object of pruning is to confine the sap to the strongest and best shoots by removing the weak or useless. It follows that weak varieties should be pruned harder than strong ones, and those recently planted harder than those that have not been disturbed for a year or two. To admit light and air freely, the centre should be kept open; all weak and dead or exhausted wood should be removed; and the remaining shoots should be cut back to a bud pointing outwards (that is, away from the centre)-say, from the third to the fifth bud of last year's growth. That is a safe rule to follow. Observation will show when it may be departed from.


Afterwards, one of the chief troubles will be· mildew. While some varieties are practically immune, others such as Crimson Rambler rarely escape unless precautions are taken. The most effective liquid is a solution of liver of sulphur (half an ounce to a gallon of water), but as it blackens white paint it should not be used near painted woodwork. The plants should be sprayed with this liquid at intervals throughout the season. As it must, however,be regarded as a preventive rather than a remedy, the spraying should commence before the disease first appears- early in summer. Aphides may also be troublesome, but they can easily be got rid of by syringing with a solution of soft soap.






England's Beauty

Posted on Wednesday 8th November 2017

This article is from our November 1932 issue, eighty five years ago, praising the work of the CPRE which was founded six years previously and is still going strong!

Full pdf scan of document can be found here 

England's Beauty.


[The following address to Women's Institutes, by Miss Margaret L. Lee, M.A., tutor to Oxford Home Students, and Principal of Wychwood School, Oxford in commendation of the work of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England is so charmingly written that we are sure it will be perused with pleasure by many of our members.]


WHY was the Council for the Preservation of Rural England started, and what is this " rural England " which it is meant to preserve?


The second question can be answered first. Rural England means our own countryside, where many of us were born and bred. The word " countryside " brings to our mind a whole picture-book of familiar things - tall elms and running streams, blue skies and the song of larks over ploughed fields, old winding roads with hazel or haw-thorn hedges, woods where we gathered primroses and black-berries; the sheep coming back to fold at night, the milking of the cows, the gathering -in of the hay and corn harvests. We can picture, too, the old cottages where generations of simple folk have lived, and where the younger ones who have been out in the world often return when they are old, to die among their own people. English men and women love all this, and are proud of it. They may well be so, for foreigners tell us that no other country in the world has the same kind of homely beauty and peace as rural England. No doubt it has all helped to make the English people what they are.


Now it is strange that things we love and are proud of should often be treated so badly by us. You have only to walk along roads near a town, which used to be pleasant country lanes, to see how thoughtless people have spoilt the English country. You see, in place of the lovely old hedges, long lines of staring new houses and bungalows, most of them as ugly as can be.


What makes them ugly? Partly that the builders of to-day do not, like the old builders, take the materials that lie near at hand, and therefore suit the part of England where they are. On the Berkshire Downs the old cottages are made of great blocks of chalk with overhanging eaves, and look as if they had grown there, they are so natural, and their white walls and brown thatch go so well with the brown fields and white quarries round about them; and in the Cotswolds the old cottages are made of the yellowish stone of those parts, with roofs of Stonesfield slate from the local quarries, and they too look as if they "belonged "where they are - they are "just right. "The same may be said of the old rosy-coloured brick and red tiles, of the Chiltern villages. But what are we to say of the glaring scarlet brick bungalows, with perhaps, those horrible pink roofs made of diamond-shaped asbestos tiles, which now deface so many of our roads? They do not match anything; they seem to be always shouting ''Look at me!'' ; they are an insult to the older houses, with their soft colours and beautiful shapes. And they are often made worse by a railing or fence of cast-iron or concrete, such as might suit a town, but is quite out of place in the country.


It is not only their ugliness which is the matter with most of the new houses; you know very well that they are often "cheap and nasty "(in spite of high rents) and have thin walls, leaky roofs, and warping window-frames, besides being planned without much regard for the needs of those who are to live in them. The old builders did better, because they took a pride in their work; and though many of the old cottages are worn out and insanitary, it is quite possible either to restore them, by using their good strong framework and improving them in various ways, or else to build new houses which have something of the same beauty with more modern conveniences.


As you go about in the 'buses you will notice many bad new houses, and a few good ones. Some good Berkshire examples are the solid, dark-coloured brick houses with nice brown-tiled roofs close to Wallingford Station, and the new County Council ones at Crowmarsh, with their deep thatch, cool in summer and warm in winter, and treated in a way which pre-vents the danger of fire. Again, some beautiful cottages in the Cotswold materials and pattern have lately been built at Filkins, in Oxfordshire. Why cannot we have more of these in place of materials and shapes that do not suit their neighbourhood, and ''pretences '' like embossed concrete blocks to imitate stone, and sham half-timbering? Are not strength and simplicity better than such pretence?


There are many other unnecessary uglinesses spoiling our rural England besides the new houses. We don't like the posts and wires for electricity and telephone, but for the present we are obliged to put up with them, since we must have these conveniences, and the laying of the wires underground, which would be a better plan and much less unsightly, is too expensive to be undertaken. Perhaps some time a way of getting over this difficulty will be found, and with the help of yet more ·wonderful discoveries in '' wire-less '' we shall have our roads and fields cleared of these things, and shall not feel any longer as if we were living in a kind of bird-cage.


But in other ways a great deal might be done. Why should our fine old barns, when their thatch or red tiles decay, be patched with grey corrugated iron, which is one of the ugliest things imaginable? We say, because it is cheap; but people who study these matters tell us it is quite possible to find inexpensive roofing that is quiet in colour and wears well; or, if we must needs have corrugated iron, it is often possible to paint it a dark green or red that will not be offensive.


Why, again should new pumps, new water-butts, new gates and stiles, sign-posts and bridges, be nearly always wanting in the fine shape and colour of the older ones? They can be made lovely to look at without sacrificing their usefulness; and they will be, as soon as the men and women of England begin to care about these things, and to feel that they must leave behind for their children and grand-children as much beauty as their fathers have left to them.


One of the worst features of these times is over-advertisement. Look, again, at the green country road of former times, and see how it is defaced by great hoardings and various kinds of placards; every tradesman trying to outdo the rest by "hitting you in the eye '' so as to make you buy his goods. In the end the result is like that of a lot of people all shouting different things at once-you pay no attention to any of them.


In some countries of Europe people are wiser than we are, and advertisements in rural scenery are entirely forbidden. Some English firms have already made a move in this direction, and ought to be praised for their patriotism. One well -known cycle company has withdrawn its yellow-and-black enamel signs of a man on a bicycle, and put in their place quiet-coloured green ones which go well with the trees and hedges. Petrol stations are generally to blame for ugly advertising, but many of the big distributing companies are making serious attempts to do away with dis-figuring advertisements. In this connection, too, the Petroleum Consolidation Act of 1929 will, it is hoped, soon prevent advertisements on garages. We can all do our bit by refusing to let traders plaster our houses with enamel signs and posters of somebody's mustard or tea or tobacco. A certain village post office was covered with such things, and the owner said she made nothing by them, but it had not struck her to have them removed. Since she has done so her old house has looked as pretty as a picture, and indeed prettier, because it is real.


Trees, again, are one of the greatest beauties of our country-side, and too often so-called "improvements "lead to the destruction of whole rows of them, leaving the roads bare and shadeless. It is true that ancient elms sometimes become dangerous, but even then they can usually be made safe by topping, and need not be actually cut down. There is, too, another sort of elm called the Wheatley elm, which is not brittle, and if we really valued our trees we should take care that when an old elm has to be removed one of these is planted in its place. The reason why so many groups of County Council houses look like strangers in the land is that they have no trees standing near, and no pleasant creepers to soften their bare-looking walls. Light creepers such as roses and ampelopsis (which requires no nails to keep it up) do not hurt the walls as ivy may do, and they greatly improve the appearance of houses.


As to litter, everyone will agree that nothing spoils our villages more than the bits of paper, cardboard cigarette-cases or chocolate boxes, and even broken glass, which careless people drop in the roads, or throw into streams and ponds. Every child in our schools should be taught to pick these up and bury them whenever he sees them lying about. Disorder is always ugly. And while teaching the children to dislike ugliness, we must also train them to care for what is beautiful; especially to spare from- destruction the wild flowers,-which in some districts are being torn up by the roots and will soon disappear altogether.


I hope you now begin to see why we want your cooperation in saving the _ English countryside before it is too late - before badly-built bungalows and screeching advertisements and general bareness and ugliness spread all over what a writer has called '' England's green and pleasant land. "It would be a terrible thing indeed if we had no countryside to hand on to our children-if they had to cross the sea to America to have a look at old English barns or cottages, many of which have to our shame been sold and taken over and set up in the United States, because the Americans value them more than we do.


If your neighbours say, that all this is "all very well for people with nothing to do, but it doesn't concern us," tell them that rural England is ours - our inheritance, our pride, as it has been to English folk for over 1, 400years. For as long ago as that we find Englishmen describing in poetry the beauties of their land, which Shakespeare calls-


This precious stone set in the silver sea, ...

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.


Secondly, teach the young people to use their eyes and their hearts, to see and 'love those lovely things which too often they pass by unnoticing. England will be theirs when we are gone, and it is for them to carry on our work of protecting it.


Thirdly, when you have to build a porch, or roof a wash-house, or put up a paling, re-member that you are adding something to England that will please or displease other people for years to come, and see that it is worthy. The ramshackle hen-house made of old boxes, the corrugated-iron fence, the railway carriage turned into a shed, are not good enough for gifts to Mother England; we must try for something better.


The C.P.R.E. is a practical society; it does not ask you to spend money you can ill afford. But it does ask you to give thought to this matter, and it is willing to show you how you can build and repair so as to produce things that are pleasant to see and yet economical. It will send you lists of materials, patterns, and shapes suitable to the part of the country where you live, and to think about these and choose the best is certainly quite as interesting a business as choosing a dress for yourself to wear!

Great British Beak Off

Posted on Wednesday 28th September 2016

A winter message from the RSPB;

As the colder months approach, it’s the perfect time to start putting out more food to help some of the UK’s declining species survive the winter, and the RSPB has created the perfect menu for our feathered friends. Birds love when you prepare a suet cake for them, and they don’t mind a soggy bottom!


RSPB wildlife advisor and head bird food chef Ben Andrew said: “Winter can be a struggle for many of our birds and providing a little food, water and shelter we can help them through the cold snap and keep them healthy for breeding next year.


“This winter’s menu has been prepared to offer a selection of tasty treats for even the picky eaters. Different types of birds need different kinds of food. Blackbirds, starlings and robins will eat fat, fruit, and mealworms, while chaffinches, goldfinches and collared doves are seed eaters, preferring sunflower hearts, nuts and nyjer seed.”


Natural food such as seeds and berries are in short supply during the winter and people can help supplement the birds’ diet by regularly putting out a range of titbits.


Ben Andrew said: “we suggest bird food like seed mixes, sunflower hearts, and fat balls, along with leftovers from the kitchen like cooked rice, uncooked porridge oats, chopped bacon, cheese, pastry, dried and fresh fruit.


“You should avoid dried coconut (it can swell up inside birds), cooked porridge (it is glutinous and can harden around bird’s beaks), margarines and vegetable oils (they smear on feathers and stop waterproofing and insulation) and milk (birds can’t digest it).


“Water is also vital for both drinking and bathing and bird baths can be kept from freezing over using small floating items like twigs or ping pong balls. And never use antifreeze!”


Here is a sample menu with great options for your garden birds:




Tasting menu for garden birds




Nyjer seed nibbles

Tasty no grow ground mix2 salad



Crispy delicious mealworms

Seasonal juicy fat balls with a side of Fair to Nature3 sunflower hearts

Premium peanuts

Raisins à la suet



Suet cake

Selection of wild fresh berries and fruit



Water only, served without ice


For a range of bird food and bird care accessories visit



And the recipe for:

DIY Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

Makes approximately 6


  • assorted cookie cutters
  • 2 cups of birdseed
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
  • Wax paper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Straws
  • Ribbon

Open both packets of your unflavored gelatin and pour them into a small pot.  Add the water, stirring to combine.  Bring the mixture to s simmer, stirring frequently,  Continue until all the gelatin is dissolved.

Put your birdseed into a large mixing bowl and pour the liquid on top. This is a step that mom or dad may want to do, as the liquid is definitely hot.  Mix everything together really, really well.  For this step, we used both a mixing spoon and our hands to ensure that everything was evenly coated.

Now, put a sheet of wax paper on top of your cookie sheet and lay out your cookie cutters.  Begin to spoon the bird seed mixture into the cookie cutters.  Fill all the way to the top, using the back of your spoon to press the mixture down and ensure that the seeds are packed in there tightly.  Try to make sure that the top is as smooth as possible.

I then cut our straw into 1″ pieces.  We pushed a straw piece through the birdseed mixture, near the top of each cookie cutter.  Ensure that the straw goes ALL THE WAY through.  You’re going to need the opening it creates to string ribbon for hanging the bird feeders.

Leave the straws in place and allow the bird feeders to dry.  We let them dry overnight to ensure that they were completely dry throughout.  When dry, the bird feeders should slide right out of the cookie cutters.  Take it slow to ensure you don’t break the bird feeders.

When all bird feeders have been removed, string ribbon through the holes created by the straws.  Tie the two ends together to form a loop.  Your bird feeders are ready for hanging!