Scratch of the Hop, The: Hop Picking in Herefordshire, Worcestershire & Shropshire


Marsha O’Mahony


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 – this richly-illustrated book celebrates the social history, traditions, culture and magic of hops.

1: The hop story;
2: Celebration of the hop;
3: Growing the hop – the grower;
4: Picking the hop – the pickers;
5: The Revolution – ‘battleships for shrimping’;
6: Hop drying – where the magic happens;
7: Hop competitions – ploughing societies & sampling;
8: Selling the hop;
9: Hops to hostelry – pubs and brewing;
10: Hop research & development – the future.

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.

Paperback with flaps | 288 pages | 242 x 171 mm | 2 July 2021
More than 200 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-910839-44-7


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