Thursday 9th September at 7pm; Rossiter Books, Ross on Wye – Ticket £5
Marsha O’Mahony will give an illustrated talk about her new book, The Scratch of the Hop, which tells the social history, traditions, culture and magic of hop farming.
In Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire, the clay soil is deep and rich, offering unmatched conditions for the growing of the key ingredient in beer – hops.
Like cider apples, hops were once a major part of the farming landscape and rural economy of this part of the Midlands, but today just 27 hop-growers are left here. At one time, the distinctive wirework of the beautifully-strung hopyards stretched as far as the eye could see, but now most of the old hopyards have disappeared.
Harvest-time attracted thousands of hand-pickers from the Midlands, Liverpool, Bath, Bristol, Manchester, South Wales and even London. Some were Gypsies and itinerant labourers; others were whole families, including grandparents and children, and service men and women, evacuees and prisoners of war. For many, hops were a way of life, for others a seasonal event akin to a family holiday.
Tracing the story of hop-farming – through local archives, interviews and a wealth of unseen photographs, from the early days of hand-picking through mechanisation to modern varieties, farming methods and the boom in craft-brewing.
Marsha O’Mahony has worked as a newspaper reporter, author and writer for number of books and commissioned works, oral historian on a series of documentary film projects and a commissioned memoirist. She lives in Herefordshire with her family.