The farming landscape

There have been farms established in the country park and its surrounding area since at least the mid sixteenth century and many remain today. From the earliest maps the names of certain farms or areas appear. On Pont’s map (1583-96), Dubbs, Newlands and possibly Patterton are named, as are Darnley, Lyon Cross and Balgray. Roy’s map (1747-55) also mentions Littleton and North Brae. These are all names that appear on later maps, and many remain working farms to this day.

John Ainslie's map of 1800.The farm of Ryet appears for the first time on Richardson’s map (1795). Ainslie’s map (1800) records Darnley Mill, Upper Darnley and Nether Darnley, and Lyoncross appears as High Lyoncross, Mid Lyoncross and Laigh Lyoncross. Patterton, Ryet, Dubbs and Littleton farms are also depicted on this map. The first edition Ordnance Survey map (1858-64) details the exact locations of the various farms for the first time. The farms of Littleton, North Brae, Lyoncross, Dubbs, Patterton, Upper Darnley (Nether Darnley has gone), Darnley Mill (labelled as a corn mill) and Ryat are all recorded here, and on the second edition (first revision) map all but Littleton appear again. On the third edition (second revision), the farm names all remain the same, although changes to several farmsteads can be observed.

The greatest impact to the various farms during the nineteenth century was not related to farming practice, but to the increased industrialisation of the area, including quarrying and mining activity for limestone and fireclay extraction and the establishment of the reservoirs. Statistical accounts testify to the prominent role of arable and dairy farming in the area during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They also highlight the difficulties to farmers presented by rising land rents and increased labour costs as industrialisation advanced.

Given the longevity of some of the farm names, it seems likely that the area has been farmed since at least medieval times.