Summer in Dolton
PUBLISHED: 15:57 06 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 20 February 2013
We return to the fields and farms of this North Devon village as seen through the eyes of photographer Karin Hewlett
We return to the fields and farms of this North Devon village as seen through the eyes of photographer Karin Hewlett.
The summer months in and around our village of Dolton, near Winkleigh, are very busy for everyone. The sheep have to be shorn, the wheat and corn have to be gathered in, and at home, jams and pickles are made and produce is prepared for the horticultural shows.
It is a remarkable sight to watch sheep-shearers at work. They are quick and thorough, holding the sheep tight between their legs, getting a firm grip on the sheeps head and neck. With skilled hands and strong muscles, it only takes minutes and the naked sheep appears looking rather pathetic, but the new wool doesnt take long to grow again.
It is a time of hectic activities for our farmers. First comes the silage and hay-making; the harvest of grass in North Devon is crucial for feeding stock over winter. This is followed by the harvest of thatching straw. This is bound when it is not fully ripe and it ripens in the stooks in the fields.
How much longer, I wonder, will we farm this way?
The stooks are made from an old-fashioned variety of wheat. It is a lovely sight to watch the men putting them up so that the air can go through them and dry them thoroughly. Later these are used for thatching our cottages. There is nothing more appealing or English than a thatched cottage. We are lucky in our village still to have quite a few.
We see many older farmers who do not want to retire and are happy doing what they have always enjoyed. I watched in astonishment the men working the old binders (both past their sell by date) still rushing around from morning till late afternoon gathering in the wheat. Up and down the hills, fitter than many a young person, making sure nothing is in the way of the binders. Come midday they have a well-earned rest and bring out their lunch boxes. How much longer, I wonder, will we farm this way? What will happen to the skills of these old men when eventually the binder is replaced? After the stooks are dry they are carried into a barn and threshed during the autumn or winter. This is another process that is a dying art.
Up and down the hills, fitter than many a young person
The main harvest of cereal crops takes place from mid-July to the end of August. What a difference I saw when I went to photograph the latest combine harvester machine: all air-conditioned with up-to-date technical equipment. I was in awe of how quickly and efficiently these machines cut the oats and move it right away onto an accompanying tractor and trailer. Acres and acres can be cut in no time at all.
Our Devon Red Ruby cows have had their calves and dont they look adorable? These Red Rubies are famed for the outstanding taste of their meat.
But it is not only work; we still find time for relaxation. There are country fairs and village luncheons and of course the Horticultural Show. Here we can display the fruits of our labours. Everyone has been busy growing vegetables and fruit and making jams and preserves and gathering flowers for display. It brings the community together; taking part in these events is all that matters. Everybody feels that they belong and contributes whatever they can.
Its a satisfying life in the villages of North Devon.
I started photographing people when I was 13 with my Agfa box camera. After leaving school I studied photography. Since then a lot has changed and I now use a digital camera, but I still try to make every picture as good as possible and avoid manipulating them.
After my husband died two of my children moved to Devon and I decided to join them in this lovely part of the country. Dolton, where I have lived now for six years, is a lovely, friendly place and I would not want to live anywhere else.
I try to celebrate human happiness and the serenity of the landscape in my photographs. It is an optimistic vision really, an attempt to reflect the beauty that is all around us.