Some history of the virtual pasture
On this page: What little information I have been able to find about the past of our field.
Our field used to belong to the Pinhay Estate, but was purchased by former owners of Highlands Farm in the 1950s, since it adjoined their land and is almost impossible to work with machinery. Pinhay is now almost entirely arable, so the steep patch on the very edge of the estate would have been a liability rather than an asset. It was mostly used for grazing bullocks.
We bought it in about 1992, because it's unusual for small parcels of land to come up for sale here. It's ideally suited for horses, because the grass is unfertilised and contains a high proportion of herbs, so the danger of laminitis is low. Friends rented it from us for sheep and ponies for a while, and it was left ungrazed except for the occasional short-term let for sheep or bullocks, until we got our first pony in 1995.
By that time, a lot more bracken and brambles had grown, but we are gradually getting them under control with the help of the family who keep their pony there too. (We had three donkeys - Millie, Lucy and Doris, from the Donkey Sanctuary for one winter, who ate a lot of the brambles, but they were just too much work for me, so I had to part, very reluctantly, with them.)
We have done quite a lot of fencing and improvements to the entrance and road drainage, and planted native trees (cherry, mountain ash, lime and beech) in the corners. We had hoped to plant a line of fastigiate trees along the skyline as our contribution to the millennium - a year or ten late perhaps, but we'll get there in the end.
It's possible to date hedges by counting the woody species in a 100m length - each species indicates about 100 years in older agricultural hedges - this obviously doesn't apply to recent ones planted by conservationists. (I did a web search on this topic, with a singular lack of success - why did it turn up a page of lonely heart ads for vegans I wonder? Ah, the joys of serendipity!)
On the road side, ours has elm, ash, field maple, sycamore, dogwood, holly, hazel, oak, beech, hawthorn, elder, bullace, and blackthorn, without counting the woody climbers like brambles and trailing rose. Depending on which length you survey, you can find between 8 and 10 species, so I reckon it must have been there a long time. The 1891 map (left) shows the field boundaries were almost identical to today's, though we are gradually losing the bank down Gore Lane as the traffic gets heavier and more destructive. A sign of the times - the four fields to the southwest are now one big arable enclosure, though the five beech trees along Hill Farm's drive were probably planted well over 110 years ago - you can see a row on the map east of the farm. (One blew down in winter 2007.)
(The name of Gore Lane, which runs alongside it, derives from the triangular, rather than bloody, meaning, even though there used to be a local slaughterhouse at one of the farms. The lane cuts between the coast road to Exeter and the main road from Lyme to Uplyme, thus enclosing a triangle.)
The Devon local studies service has a page with some early maps of Devon. Gore Lane is shown on Greenwood's map of 1827 - I'm not sure what the massive hill to the east of it is though - the area is flat now. (Mind you, Saxton's C16th map on the same site has what looks like volcanoes too!)
I also discovered this site, whch allows you to zoom in and out of several maps: A Vision of Britain.
A modern map is shown below. Gore Lane is centre of the map area, just right of the pink blob.)