The Farm Pond
Lilian Smither wrote in 1962 about the farm pond at Sylvesters
Sylvesters Pond
George Westbrook at Sylvesters Pond
“The Farm Pond was a must in the old days. Such a pond existed adjacent to the road at the side of the farmhouse at Lower Froyle, near Alton, where I was born. Many a picturesque scene I can recall; cows drinking peacefully near the waters edge, some venturing in up to their knees (if a cow has knees) and others sometimes pushing and shoving; why, no-one could tell, as there seemed to be plenty of water. But what muddy water, surely not fit to drink, especially when 10 or 12 cows and heifers had walked this way and that stirring up the mud. One wonders what officials of the Milk Marketing Board would say to such a state of affairs, their precious cows drinking such dirty water.

My father's horses also drank at the pond; they were usually brought to the water's edge with a halter round their necks and were not allowed to walk far into the pond for fear they might get stuck in the mud, whereas the cows took pot luck and came to no harm. Or was that a reason why many new-born calves died and were buried in the back garden? A new horse really did get stuck. Father only meant to show him where the pond was so that he could drink when he turned out to graze in the adjoining meadow, but before father could stop him he had plunged in on the wrong side into a deep hole and down he went. What excitement: father shouting and hollering at the top of his voice, farm hands and neighbours running with poles, pushing at the horse; the poor beast must have felt bewildered, and then a mighty push and a plunge and out he scrambled covered in black slimy mud.

1925 was a very hot summer and the pond dried up completely. Instead of water there was nothing but mud, baked quite hard by the sun with cracks running in all directions like a giant jig-saw puzzle. No water for cows or horses, the ducks could not swim and every drop of water had to be drawn up by hand from the well for all the cattle, horses, chicken, (chicken drink quite a lot of water, particularly in hot, dry weather) not to mention ducks and geese and the needs of a busy farmhouse.

It was not unusual for father during a dry summer to draw 30 or more large buckets of water every day from that well, which stood at the back of the farmhouse, carry the water 100 yards or so and fill up the tanks in the farmyard and the earthenware pans in the house. The well never dried up in summer nor did it overflow in winter. Strange, come to think of it now.

A cart shed stood very near the pond, in full view of the village street, with two stout wooden rails across the open front. The wagonette was housed there among other vehicles. One hot day the cows decided to push down the rails and get under cover away from the flies; who knows, they might have been having a game, to see who could push the hardest and away went the wagonette into the pond. A broken shaft was the result, and much labour to pull out the old wagonette. It did much service after this episode, carrying the entire family of six to the nearby market towns, visiting friends and relations, and although the, distance was usually from four to six miles it was always a day’s excursion.

It was decided in the summer that the pond must be cleaned out so father, working with his men, began the task of moving the mud; many cart loads were taken to the fields. It made good manure no doubt, but the smell was terrible. Yet neither man nor beast came to any harm. The task completed, the rain came and soon the pond refilled as if by magic and there was plenty of water for all the cattle. Now in 1962 the pond is not there at all, trees and shrubs flourish on the site and taps and pipes replace the well.”