The Hop Picking Year

Hop Training

Hop training should really be included in "Spring Preparation" but it is such a large portion of work it deserves it's own section.

Here we cover the different terminology for training the hops up the strings. Terminology used - firsting, seconding, thirding, stripping, twiddling, heading - may seem meaningless to start with but with, I hope, a little explanation, become more clearer.

Hop training was a job done mainly by the local women (but not exclusively). Some men trained hops and the locals were augemented by "travellers" who turned up each year for the hop training.

Hop training was normally piecework and trainers were paid by the cant. [Hop gardens were divided into cants which contained about 1000 hills] Hop training in early spring was a back breaking job.

When hops start growing in the spring, they throw up many shoots which need to be given a "helping hand" to grow up the strings in a clockwise fashion. Generally speaking the strongest shoots are trained up the strings, normally two to each of the four strings and the remaining weaker shoots pulled out so the hop puts all its energy into the stronger shoots. This is known as FIRSTING.

SECONDING follows on from firsting and wayward shoots that are not growing up the strings are trained further up the strings. Again weaker shoots will be pulled out from around the base of the plant.

THIRDING AND TWIDDLING is the next training process. By this time most of the shoots are above the "band" and can don't always want to grow up the strings, especially if it is windy. Again the shoots are trained up by hand where the trainer can reach and are "twiddled" using a stick with a vee on the end as the shoots get higher up the strings.

By the time mid-summers day has arrived, the shoots will have reached the top of the strings and the wirework. This is the time for HEADING which involves a longer twiddling stick to reach up to the wirework. The heads of the bines are the carefully trained around the wirework. This is a difficult job, manoeuvring a long pole with a vee on the end and looking up into the sky.

Examples of these jobs are shown below.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.



"Mrs Knapp of Ockham Farm carries out the first training operation involving the careful selection of the proper number of suitable bines for furnishing the strings"

Hop training - "Firsting" begins at Bodiam at the hands of Mrs Weddle and Mrs Hall



Mrs Knapp Firsting

Mrs Baldock-Apps Thirding


"The third operation of training completed, the removal of diseased growth goes on incessantly.  Mrs Mabb of Abbey Farm removes a Downey Mildew "spike" by hand"

Mrs Stevenson Thirding 


 Mrs Stevenson Seconding 

"The second training operation involving tending the growing bine, supplementing where necessary with new growth and clearing the base of unwanted growth as a disease control measure, is done by Mrs Baldock-Apps, Abbey Farm"



Mrs Knapp 


Guinness Time
Summer 1958

Guinness Time
Summer 1958


Guinness Time
Summer 1961



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