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June j, I9i2.
SOUTHAMPTON AND DISTRICT PICTORIAL.
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Our Weekly Illustrated feature.
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No. 9.—THE HAMPSHIRE STRAWBERRY COUNTRY.
The awaabcrnr industry. of which Southern Hampshire is Uie chief ct-ntiv, provides a givvl many practical obja.4 leeaon*, as well aj the nx»t popular of «u|y summer fmit*. Tlie economist w ho holds hop^-ful views concerning the future of agricultural England will come »*ay encooragec by the «**gy and the or-ganising skill of Uioae who are spending their days in gratifying Uio palate of the fruit-loving public Even the casual visitor cannot fail to bo impressed by Uie reduction of evejythiug in atrawberryland w «wtem. and by the "keen business instinct which prevails. This hub-animation of every oUut consideration to that of speed is Uie outstanding impression of everyone who sees the cult-mist at work, and the system which he has set up.
THE "EARLY HIED.
In the matter of strawberry culture it is the early grower that catches the profit; indeed it is the operation of tliis principle which has given Southern Hampshire tlio commanding load which it has secured in the strawberry harvest. It is all a matter of personal enthusiasm, co-ordinated by collective organisation, and supplemented by Uio retinae of the Railway Company to the needs of the gnawer* under the head of transport. Time is tlio essence of the contract, as the legal phrase has it. and everybody concerned takes a hand in th: business of speeding up, as indeed is neces-sary when at a single station in one day the dc.«patdi of strawberries exceed* 120,000 baskets, not, bo it noted, consigned to one destination, for the day when Coveiit Garden bought up the whole of the Hampshire crop is over. Today the berries are cot signed to points as widely separated as Aberdeen and Aberystwyth. The strawberry "specials" run according to schedule on lialf a dozen different routes, north, east, and west, as well as the points in between^ and these concerned regulate their plans by the special railway time-table during the harvesting of the berries.
THE CULMINATING MINT.
Of couiso Uio harvest which is just commencing is only the culmination of a year's careful preparation and patient work. It was tlie new-gardener knight, Sir Harry Veiteh, who maid that the modem gardener works very largely in the laboratory. True enough doubtless, but hardly applicable except in an abstract sense to the strawberry grower. Life la not long enough fix Uie Southern Hamp&hiro fruit faimer to set about evolving a new berrv -there is a new one, by the way, this yea: named after King George—his chief concern being to grow as much fruit as is possible in the space at his disposal, to place it on the market i«s quickly as possible, and to get as good a price as ho can squeeze out of the middleman. That is not to say that the busi- I ness is not scientific, for that is precisely what | it is, but it is the science of Uie market rather j than Uio eci nee of the laboratory.
A GREAT INDUSTRY.

(1) A picker's encampment with a strawberry field in the background,
(2) A picker, showing the method of feathering.
(3) A fruit special at Swanwick.
the signs and wond:ra of a great industry are to be seen on every hand. To obtain a proper impression of the strawberry country at the • time of harvest it is necessary to get it in perspective. Find an eminence which gives a view of a five mile radius, and survey Uio land and the glory of it. In every direction are the wide spreading parterres of green and gold which represent the fields, all different^* size, but presenting no variation in their general appearance. All have Uio same bright background of golden straw on which the plants are bedded, contrasting with the mine severely straight lines of bright green. Acres and acres are to be seen cut up and divided by the sharp rectangle* of tlw hedgerows, and ocr**ioually separated by dark splashes of groon where stands an orchard. ltound Swanwick,
THE MKTROrOLIS OK STRAW UERRY-LASD,
th* countryside la singularly bn&en and lio. «wn. The level* rue and fall in those rich contours which remind one of Devon, save for the lighter In* of th* moil) but it is a cir-cumstance which never deters the fruit farmer. A rounded Lmill ia — P*d as a Hat Qeld, (hough the ilf,^ I* a liitb curious, specially
at a distance, fur the lines of Uie plants : converge and diverge in all directions. Odd j corners of Ik Ids, unusid for the ordinary purposes of farming, are never wasted in Uie stiaw -! berry country ; hedges are cut and trimmed so ; that ovcrgrowUis may not occupy valuable i sp&e, and oven the gardens of the houses are , filled, Uio lines of plants running in many cases up to Uio back dours of the dwellings. I very fi^>t of fpace whir h is not fulfilling some of Uio other useful purposes of a busy 1 , .immunity is pressed into service. Indeed one has the feeling that admirably am it all is as | proof of industry, there has-been a bttle too ! much sacrificed to utility. T}io houses aie ! severe rectangles of red brick, shorn of flower ; g'irdeiis; their only beamy being tho delightful inconsequence with which Uiey are dotted ' about, in odd corners, and without any regard to tlio position of Uie highways.
Swanwick in these days is at*what may bo ; called the awkward p ried of its growth. It is nut immemorally old, as are some of the vil-I la ges "of straw berry lard, neiUier is it garishly new. It is straggling, prosperous, and beautiful only in its devotion to a purpose. Normally ; it may b: a sleepy sort oi place; to-day its tar-. sprayed road* (for it is severely up to date) arc I thronged with all the population of strawberry- #
AND ITS l»OI'l I^VTION
And a curiously mixed population it/ i*\ One may sre Uie big farmer, gailtwd andvrubi-cuiul, to w hom straw bury culture is but one of the ,profitable incidents of his rpacious life, but keen novertlieleas to secure bis proper margin of profit. His carts, as they wind down the straggling roads towards Uie splendidly roomy yards of tlie station, am as well fitted up as the big wfiuit special* <.f Uie Hail way Company, that is to siy.'XvTtli wipo shelve* and covets, and all tho other paraph* rnalia necessary '.o keep such a delicate fruit in prime condition 'llioro is Uio au«*xiWiil maikut gardener, whose whole energies are devoted to his craft, and whThere are plenty of others, including the

eld o&4p*w*A amijy picks
his straw bcrrie
in Uie scale is Uie nian to whom fruit culture •* the holiby of spare time, and who day by day 4traps a ' IvwUcet cr two on his bicycle and takes them" to Uie station. It is
WONDERFULLY BISINE88, ^
for the prices change day by day, and tho 1 grower never knows how soon tlw moment may arrive when Uie margin between what ho get* for his fruit and what he has to pay to get it upoThat is the hazard, and since it largely depends upon the weather, the outsider will realise thai it is a business which needs a keen organising < brain, and the capacity for "getting up early/' to use an t-xptvssive Americanism.
Swanx.-k is roughly Uie geographical centra .vf tlv stoaWborry country, gaining its import-mice chiefly from Uie fact tliat it is the chief place whence tin- fruit is sent. StrawlwrTy-land strotche* from Slwiling. wliich is quite close to Southampton, to the villages of the Moon Valley, many of which liavp the natural Unuty which Swmiwkk lacks. Hnrslodon, foe ! instance, is a sweetly pretty place, and baa the advantage 1 «vauso of its sheltered position 01 raising eatlier strawberries than some of the nws» exposid places. Wiekluun, too, a little remote, ii a lovely haunt, and developing cou-s ib«ial>ly of late. 'Die area is w idening ovary.
wliere indeed. More land at Swanwick haa been laid down during the last yeaY, ainl tha ; same story of expansion come* from the other places, and also frofflNJctley, wliere tha trana-|M»rt arnuigements haw recently been improved,
Hedge End, lhukgato, S^rialmry, and other
There is at least one soene which, formerly familiar, one mimes now. Great pike of strawberry baskets used to be a>en on every station platform from St. Dcuys to Faroliam. Tliey have all gone, for Uio grower* now employ chip baskets, which are only used once, and which liav.i the ailditional advantage of preserving Urn fruit in lietter condition. Many of Uiem are prison made, but the numbers coming thence are not sufficient, and a considerable subsidiary industry lias sprung up. Tlio new arrangement is muiih more efficient if less picturesque.
Of Uio system of tnin^port wo have already spoken; the personnel is no less interesting. Hut this week tho strawberry staff at Swan-wick will number upward* of a hundred msn,
whtae duty it will ha to classify the thousand* of baskets which come into their hands, and to •end Uie 111 away according to carefully prepared schedule. On Uie side of arrangement alone it is a big undertaking, but tho wheel* work very smoothly, and even when there is a string of carts a quarter of a mile long outside Uio station-yard, tlie loading pace i* not increfced,
chiefly because it cannot be."
THE MCKEH&
'(•tally, and in a sense more picturesque Uian any, are the (Mckors. Iliey an, a nomad typ* of people, living in some cases in ^caravan* ^litclied in corners of the fields, and in some in-»Lances in rude habiuitiuis of caii\-as, Uiat cannot always bo calhd U^its. Tliey are mere glorified sleeping-bags covered with straw. The pickers live as well as work in Uie open air,
which is why Uwwr faces are copper hued, and have such an enviable appearance of health. All over tho strawberry country are Utese litUe settlements, its iidiabitauts living Uieir own lives, working from sunrise till sunset, and then, when the profits dwindle, taking up their beds and the remainder of their traps and departing, possibly to the hop fields, or to the intintrant amusement business whence so many of them come.
Tliis year, it has been said, there is a dearth of picker*, but tliere seems as many suttlemante as usual, and tho demand is n<4 so great as la»t year, which was Uio "bumper" year. There ought to bo no scarcity, for Uio picker* make good- moneV, for their celerity is wonderful,
llumgli it is back-treaking work stooping for houiv in tlie suulisked fields. Liko their employers, it is their part to "make hay while 1 Ik? suii shines," if a mixed metaphor bo per-mittid. That is what everyone m strawberry-land is doing now, and if one's olstcrvatioa counts for anything, they are making a very good Uiing out of it.

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