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Grain and Chaff from an English Manor by Arthur H. Savory

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"When the moon's at the quarter, then down comes the rain;
At the half it's no better I ween;
When the moon's at three-quarters it's at it again,
And it rains besides mostly between."

Rather hard on Bala, for the summer was so abnormally wet that these
lines would have been true of any part of England. I suppose everybody
is more or less interested in the weather, but the custom of alluding
to the obvious, as an opening to conversation, is probably a survival
from the time when everyone was directly interested in its effect upon

Nothing proves how completely town interests now dominate those of the
country so much as the innovation called "summer time." During the war
it was no doubt a boon to allotment holders, and of course it gives a
longer evening to those employed all day indoors; but it inflicts
direct loss on the farmer, who is practically forced to adopt it in
order to supply the towns with produce in time for their altered
habits. The farmer exchanges the last hour of the normal day, one of
the most valuable in the old working time, for the first hour of the
new day, one of the most useless, for owing to the dew which the sun
has not had time to dry up, many agricultural operations cannot be
properly performed or even commenced--hay-making and corn-hoeing for
instance are impossible. We may be sure that the former times of
beginning and ending farm-work, which I suppose had been customary for
at least 2,000 years in England, did not receive the sanction of such
a period without good reason, and it seems to me, that so far as
outdoor work is concerned the new arrangement savours of "teaching our
grandmothers to suck eggs."

There is a saving of lighting requirements, no doubt, but in such a
six weeks of winterly mornings as we had, following the commencement
of "summer time" this first year of peace, there is a considerable
increase in the consumption of fuel. Wherever possible, I suppose,
most houses are built to face the south, and the breakfast-room would
be generally on that side, so that by 9 o'clock, old time, the sun had
warmed the room, but at 9 o'clock, new time, the sun has scarcely
looked in at the window; a fire is probably lighted and to save
trouble kept up all day. If the new arrangement is continued, and I
understand that it was tried more than 100 years ago and abandoned as
a mistake, it would be much better to begin it at least a month later.
Our present May Day is nearly a fortnight earlier than before the New
Style was introduced, which is the reason why old traditions of May
Day merry-makings appear unseasonable; and probably the promoters of
summer time have not heard of "blackthorn winter" and "whitethorn
winter," which, in the country, we experience regularly every year in
April and May.

"When the grass grows in Janiveer
It grows the worse for it all the year,"


"If Candlemas-Day be fine and fair
The half of winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas-Day be wet and foul
The half of winter was gone at Yule,"

are both rhymes suggesting the probability of wintry weather to
follow, if the early weeks of the year are mild and unseasonable, and
they may be considered as generally correct prognostications. A
neighbouring village had the distinction of possessing a weather
prophet, with the reputation also of an astrologer; he could be seen
when the stars were gleaming brightly, late at night, gazing upwards
and making his deductions, though, in reality, I fancy, his
inspiration came from the study of almanacs which profess to foretell
the future. He was quiet and reserved, with a spare figure, dark
complexion, and an abstracted expression. Occasionally I could induce
him to talk, but he did not like to be "drawn." He told me, as one of
his original conceptions, that he thought the good people were
accommodated in the after-life within the limits of the stars of good
influence, and that the wicked had to be content with those of an
opposite character.

The proverb about March dust, and "A dry March and a dry May for old
England," are both apposite, for they are busy months on the land, and
a wet March amounts to a national disaster; but everyone forgives
April when showery, for we all know that "April showers bring forth
May flowers." Shakespeare, too, says:

"When daffodils begin to peer,
With heigh! the doxy over the dale,
Why, then comes in the sweet of the year."

A charming sentiment and charmingly rendered, but possibly more
accurate when the Old Style was in vogue, and the seasons were nearly
a fortnight later than now. The modern "daffys" too, no doubt, "begin
to peer" somewhat earlier than those of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

During a very hot summer I suggested to the Board of Agriculture that
it might be worth while to experiment with explosions of artillery,
with a view of inducing the clouds to discharge the rain they
evidently contain when they keep passing day after day without
bursting. I had seen it stated that many great battles had ended in
tremendous downpours, and that it was believed that the rain was
caused by concussion from the explosions. The Board replied, however,
that experiments had been conducted in America for the purpose,
without in any way substantiating the theory; and the experiences of
the Great War have since conclusively proved that it has no

As to weather signs, I have already quoted the original pronouncement
of my carpenter, T.G., that "the indications for rain are very similar
to the indications for fine weather," and there is a good deal in his
words. My own conclusion, after fifty years of out-door life on the
farm, in the woods, in the garden, at out-door games, and on the
roads, is that fine weather brings fine weather, and wet weather
brings wet weather, in other words, it never rains but it pours, in an
extended sense.

My impression is that when the ground is dry there is a minimum of
capillary attraction between it and the clouds, and though the sky may
look threatening they do not easily break into rain. On the other
hand, when the ground is thoroughly wet and evaporation is active,
capillary attraction tends to unite earth and clouds, and rain
results. We all know that hill-tops receive showers which frequently
pass over the vales without falling, probably because of the greater
proximity of the hills. In a long drought a violent thunderstorm,
which soaks the ground, will often be followed by a complete change of
weather, as the result of contact established between the earth and
the clouds.

The best description I know of a really hot and cloudless day is that
by Coleridge in the _Ancient Mariner_:

"The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he;
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea."

The succession of monosyllables expresses most forcibly the monotony
of a day of blazing sunshine, unruffled by a cloud; and the absence of
incident illustrates the remorseless march of the dominant sun across
the heavens.

Very little of my time has been spent in London or any other town, and
my early recollections of passing through London on my way to or from
school after or before the holidays are of very depressing weather
conditions--fog, greasy streets and pavements, or a sun veiled in a
haze of smoky vapour. Even when I went to Lord's annually in July to
see the Eton and Harrow match my recollection of the weather is of
dull, sultry heat and oppression of spirits. Cricket never seemed the
same game as I knew and loved at Harrow, or in my own home in Surrey;
there was an unreality about it, and a black coat and top hat were
insufferably uncongenial.

I am able, as an eye-witness on one of these occasions, to write of an
incident which, I think, has been almost forgotten. It was within a
year of the marriage of King Edward, then Prince of Wales, and Queen
Alexandra. A ball had been hit almost to the boundary, but was stopped
by a spectator close to the ropes, thrown in to the fielder, and
smartly returned to the wicket-keeper. The batsmen took it for granted
that it was a boundary hit, and were changing ends when, one man being
out of his ground, the wicket was put down, the wicket-keeper not
recognizing that the ball was "dead." The umpire gave the man "out."
The man demurred, and immediately shouts arose on all sides: "Out!"
"Not out!" "Out!" "Not out!" "Out!" "Not out!" rising _in crescendo_
to a pitch of intense excitement. The boys watching the match, and the
other spectators, some agreeing with, and some disputing the verdict,
rushed into the centre of the ground, and completely blocked the open
space still shouting vociferously. When the turmoil was at its height
the carriage of the Prince and Princess was driven on to the ground;
one of the players rushed up excitedly, and asked the Prince to decide
the matter. The Prince had not seen the incident, and of course
declined, as no doubt he would have done under any circumstances, to
give an opinion. It was impossible to clear the ground and continue
the play that evening, and stumps were drawn for the day. Next morning
the fielding side offered the disgusted batsman to continue his
innings, but he decided to play the game and abide by the umpire's
decision. I forget whether Eton or Harrow was in the field at the
time, and after this lapse of years it does not matter. The headmaster
always sent a notice round, just before the match, to be read to every
form, that the boys were desired not to indulge in any "ironical
cheering" at Lord's; this was his euphemism for what we called
"chaff," and I fear that on this occasion the warning was disregarded
even more completely than usual.

As a child, I generally paid a visit to London with my brothers and
sisters during the Christmas holidays to see a pantomime, and I
remember an occasion when returning from Covent Garden Theatre after a
matinee we all--nine of us--walked over Waterloo Bridge and paid nine
halfpennies toll--a circumstance that had never happened before, and
never happened again.

In the days before the railway was made between Alton and Farnham the
old bailiff on the Will Hall Farm at Alton, who, though quite an
elderly man, had never visited London, expressed a wish to visit it
for once in his life. His master gave him a holiday and paid his
expenses, and the old man drove the ten miles to Farnham Station.
Arrived in London he started to walk over Waterloo Bridge, but the
further he got the more astonished he became at the traffic, and began
to wonder what "fair" all the people could be going to. Feeling very
much out of his element he reached the Strand, and looking up and down
he saw still greater crowds of passengers and the unending procession
of 'buses, cabs, and vans. He became so confused and alarmed that he
turned round, went straight back to Waterloo Station, and left by the
first available train. He came home disgusted with London, and in an
account of the traffic and the people, ended by saying, "I never saw
such a place in my life; I couldn't even get a bit of anything to eat
until I got back to Farnham." This old man was called "the Great
Western": I suppose his bulk and commanding figure were reminiscent of
the power and energy of one of the locomotives on that line. He wore a
very wide-brimmed straw hat, and a vast expanse of waistcoat with
sleeves, without a coat over it, and he had a very determined and
masterful habit of speech. Caldecott's sketch of Ready-Money Jack in
_Bracebridge Hall_ always recalls him to my mind. He must have been
born before the opening of the nineteenth century, for he could
remember the stirring events of its early years. Any remark about
unusual weather made in his hearing was at once put out of court by
his recollections of "eiteen-eiteen" (1818), which seems to have been
a very remarkable year for maxima and minima of meteorology. He could
remember the high price of wheat during the war which ended at
Waterloo, and how his old master, the grandfather of the tenant of the
farm in my time, would stand by the men in the barn as they measured
up the wheat, bushel by bushel, to fill the sacks, and exclaim as each
bushel was poured in, "There goes another guinea, boys!" This would
make the price 168s. a quarter; I find the average recorded for 1812
was 126s. 6d., so that it is quite possible that for a time in that
year in places 168s. was realized; which leaves us little to grumble
at in the price of 80s. during the greatest war in history.

His horizon must have been considerably widened by his brief visit to
London; previous to that event it might have been nearly as extensive
as that of the hero of a recent story of Pwllheli. Meeting a crony in
the town, he remarked that the streets of London would be pretty
crowded that day. "How's that?" said his friend. "Why, there's a trip
train gone up to-day with fourteen people from Pwllheli!"

Bredon Hill, in the Vale of Evesham, is the direction in which many
people look for hints of coming changes of weather.

"When Bredon Hill puts on his cap
Ye men of the vale beware of that"

is a well-known proverb referring to the dark curtain of rain clouds
obscuring the top, which is generally followed by heavy rain and
floods in the Avon meadows and those of all the little streams which
join that river. The same purple curtain can be seen on the Cotswolds
above Broadway, and is likewise the forerunner of floods in the Vale:

"When you see the rain on the hills
You'll shortly find it down by the mills."

There is, too, the beautiful blue hazy distance one sees in very fine
weather, which gives a feeling of mystery and remoteness and
unexplored possibilities. I lately read somewhere of a man who had
passed his life without leaving his native village, though he had
often looked far away into the blue distance, and longed to start upon
a journey of discovery; for its invitation seemed an assurance that in
such beauty there must be something better than he had ever
experienced in his own home. There came a day when the appeal was so
insistent that he braced himself to the effort, and after many weary
miles reached the place of his dreams, only to find that the blue
distance had disappeared. Meeting a passer-by he told him of his
journey and its object, and of his disappointment, "Look behind you,"
was the reply. He looked, and behold! over the very spot he had left
in the morning--over his own home--the blue haze hung, as a veil of
beauty, with its exquisite promise. There is a moral and there is
comfort in this tale for him who fancies that he is the victim of
circumstances and surroundings. That is the man who, as my bailiff
used to say in harvest, has always got a heavier cut of wheat than his
neighbour in the same field, and is always finding himself "at the
wrong job."



"There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O Earth, what changes hast thou seen!"
--_In Memoriam_.

"With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

"I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever."
_The Brook_.

Living so many years in one place I had unusual opportunities, as my
rounds nearly always took me beside my brooks, of watching their
slowly changing courses. The roots of the pollard willows helped to
keep them to their regular path by holding up the banks, but sometimes
when an old tree fell into the water it had an opposite result. A
fallen tree, reaching partly across the stream, has the immediate
effect of damming the flow of the water on the side of its growth and
diverting the current towards the opposite bank in a narrowed but more
powerful advance, so that the bank is worn away and the beginning of a
bend is formed. As the breach increases, the water, momentarily
retarded there by the new concavity, rushes forward again in the
direction of the bank from which the tree fell. So that a second
concavity is produced on that side some little way below the tree,
resulting in the slow formation of an extended S-like figure, or hook
with a double bend. The collection of rubbish and sediment retained by
the fallen tree helps to form a new bank on that side, extending
further into the stream than the bank on which the tree originally

As this process continues it is easy to see that a straight stretch of
stream will in time assume a winding course, and the stream will be
continually altering its path, so that large areas of flat meadows
will be formed, every part of which has at times been the stream's
course. How many ages, then, must it have taken to produce the level
meadows we see extending for immense distances on either side of our
big rivers, and even those adjoining quite small streams? The level
surface thus created by the river or brook's course perpetually
deflected and reflected, is finally completed by the floods bringing
down a deposit of soil in solution, which is precipitated and settles
into any surface irregularities left by the wanderings of the stream.
A faint conception of an absolutely illimitable cycle of years, during
which the whole extent of visible flat meadow has been again and again
eroded and restored, is thus conveyed.

Confirmation of this alteration of their courses by streams is
afforded when we cut a main drain through one of these meadows, to
carry the water from the connected furrow drains of adjoining arable
land. The alluvial soil can be found as deep as the depth of the
present brook, free from the stones found in the arable land, and
containing, to the same depth as the brook, fresh water shells similar
to those in the brook to-day. There was a bend in course of formation
in one of my brooks, where the stump of a tree, whose fall was the
starting-point, could be seen standing in the newly-formed ground, a
yard or more from the stream when I left, though I can remember when
it was so near as almost to touch the water.

If we form an S from a piece of wire, and pinch it together from top
to bottom, the loops become so flattened, [S], that one of them may
almost unite with the central curve. The same thing often happens in
the loops of a brook, and, in time, the stream will complete the
junction, forming a short circuit.[2] Thus an island may be formed; or
when the old loop opposite the short circuit gets filled up with
deposit or falling banks--the water preferring the short circuit--a
piece of land may be cut off from one of the former sides of the brook
and transferred to the other, so that where the brook is a boundary
between two owners or parishes one owner or parish may be robbed and
the other owner or parish becomes a receiver of stolen goods. There
was an instance of this on the farm I owned and occupied adjoining the
Aldington Manor property, and the owner and the tenant of the piece
transferred to my side could not reach it without walking through the
brook. In this case, however, the tenant had wisely planted the ground
with withies, which he managed to get at for lopping when its turn
came round every seven years. Thus we have an example of the necessity
of the ancient practice of beating the bounds, which, at least before
the days of ordnance surveys, was not merely an opportunity for a

Another proof of the creation of new land by the meanderings of a
stream is found in the ancient "carrs" of North Lincolnshire, near
Brigg, where the hollowed-out logs of black bog oak, which formed the
canoes of the ancient inhabitants, are sometimes discovered many feet
below the surface, and long distances from the present course of the
Ancholme. These having sunk to the bottom of the river in past ages,
and gradually become covered with alluvium, were left behind as the
river changed its course. In some cases however these canoes may have
sunk to the bottom of the water when it formed a lake, and the lake
having gradually silted up, the river receded to something like its
present width.

The floods in the Vale of Evesham from the Avon and even from my
brooks, often converted the adjoining flat meadows into lakes, and
they rose so suddenly after heavy rains or the melting of deep
snowfalls on the hills, that they were attended with danger to the

In the summer of 1879 one of these sudden floods occurred, and people
standing on Evesham bridge, saw fallen trees and hay-cocks floating
down the stream. A pollard willow was noticed with a crew of about
twenty land rats, which had found refuge there until the tree itself
was lifted by the rising water and carried down the stream; and a
floating hay-cock supported a man's jacket, his jar of cider, and his
"shuppick." The local word "shuppick," a corruption of "sheaf-pike,"
means a pike used for loading the sheaves of wheat in the harvest
field on to the waggon, and is the "fork" in general use at
hay-making. During another summer flood the whole of the pleasure
ground at Evesham, beside the Avon, was under water several feet deep;
the water poured in at the lower windows of the adjoining hotel, and
the proprietor's casks of beer and cider in the cellars, ready for the
regatta, were lifted from their stands and bumped against walls and

Every parish has its Council in these days, and in country places
almost every other person one meets is a councillor of some sort, and
inclined to be proud of the distinction. These Councils are excellent
safety-valves for parochial malcontents who thus harmlessly let off
superfluous steam which might otherwise ruffle the abiding calm of
peaceful inhabitants, but their powers are really very limited. In a
village in Worcestershire where an approach road crossed a brook by a
ford, during floods the current was sometimes so strong as to
constitute a danger to horses and carts. The village pundits
therefore, in council duly assembled, considered the matter, and after
an extended debate the following resolution was carried unanimously,
"That a notice board be erected on the spot bearing the inscription:
When this board _is covered with water_ it is dangerous to attempt to
cross the ford."

The numerous brooks in the Vale of Evesham supply ample water for the
stock, but in more elevated parts, especially on the chalk Downs of
Sussex, Hants, Wilts, and Dorset, provision is made for an artificial
water supply by what are called "dewponds." A shallow saucer-shaped
depression is dug out on the open Down, the bottom being made
water-tight by puddling with a well-rammed layer of impervious clay.
The first heavy rainfall fills the pond, and, the water being colder
than the air, the dew or mist condenses on its surface sufficiently,
in ordinary weather, to maintain the supply. In a dry time the sheep
can always reach the water, the pond having no banks, by the shelving
formation of the bottom. Sometimes a few trees are allowed to grow
round it; they also act as condensers, and their drip helps to fill
the pond. It is only in an abnormal drought that these dewponds really
fail, and a thunderstorm, followed by ordinary weather, will soon
refill them. Gilbert White, in _The Natural History of Selborne_,
refers to these ponds in a very interesting letter on the subject,
including details of condensation by trees, in which he gives an
instance of a particular pond, high up on the Down, 300 feet above his
house, and situated in such a position that it was impossible for it
to receive any water from springs or drainage, which "though never
above three feet deep in the middle, and not more than thirty feet in
diameter, and containing, perhaps, not more than two or three hundred
hogsheads of water, yet never is known to fail, though it affords
drink for three hundred or four hundred sheep, and for at least twenty
head of large cattle besides."

The natural well-water in the Vale of Evesham is exceedingly hard, and
in the town and some villages was formerly much contaminated. After
great opposition from obstructive ratepayers, a splendid supply was
obtained from the Cotswolds above Broadway, about six miles away, of
much softer and really pure spring water. It comes in pipes by
gravitation, so there is no expense of pumping; but it was difficult
to get recalcitrant ratepayers to lay the water on from the mains to
their houses, as that part of the cost had to be borne by them
individually; and, before compulsion could be resorted to, the Council
had to prove contamination of the wells and close them. To get the
evidence samples were submitted to a London analyst, and they were
invariably condemned. One of the Councillors suggested sending, with a
number of well samples, a sample of the new supply "for a fad." The
samples were numbered, but had no other distinguishing mark, and in
due course the usual condemnations were received, including that of
the new town supply!

During the wet harvest of 1879, when what was called by townspeople
the agricultural depression, was becoming acute, it was impossible to
get a whole day on which wheat could be carried. The position was
serious, because the grain was sprouting in the sheaves in the field,
and time after time a fairly dry Saturday would have allowed carrying
the following day, though Monday was always as wet as ever. At last at
Aldington we faced the situation and decided to proceed with the work
whenever possible, Sunday or no Sunday. A fine drying Saturday
occurred, and my bailiff told the men what we proposed, adding that we
did not wish anyone to help who had scruples as to the day. They all
appeared on Sunday morning, a brilliant day, except one "conscientious
objector," who, as I heard later, spent most of the day at the
public-house. We got up two ricks from about ten acres, which
eventually proved to be some of the driest wheat we had that year, and
which I was able to sell for seed at a good price, to go into
districts where no dry seed wheat could be found.

My old vicar was somewhat scandalized at this Sunday work, and some of
my neighbours fancied themselves shocked, but a day or two later I
happened to meet another clergyman friend, who farmed a little
himself. "I was _so_ pleased," he said, "to hear that you were
carrying wheat last Sunday; when I was preaching I was strongly
disposed to conclude by telling my people--'Now you have been to
church, go home to your dinners, and then off with your jackets and
carry wheat for the rest of the day.'" Next Sunday all my neighbours
were busy with their wheat, but I had managed to complete my harvest
during the previous week, on the 8th of October, quite a month or six
weeks later than usual, and an extraordinary contrast to the very dry
year 1868, when all the corn on the farm, I was told, was carried
before the last day of July.

I attended a neighbour's sale that autumn; the wet seasons and the low
prices had been too much for him, and he was leaving for the United
States; his rick-yard was empty, all the corn sold, and nothing but
straw left. I heard him remark, "Folks are saying that I'm very
backward with my payments, but I'm very forward with my thrashing,
anyway!" Before the following spring nearly all the rick-yards were
empty, and wheat-ricks, it was said, were as scarce as churches--one
in each parish. The situation was summed up later in a phrase which
passed into a proverb: "In 1879 farmers lived on faith, in 1880 they
are living on hope, and in 1881 they will have to live on charity."

The attitude of the towns was one of apathy and indifference, like
that of the General in _Bracebridge Hall_, which, published in 1822,
proves how history repeats itself in agricultural as in other matters:

"He is amazingly well-contented with the present state of things, and
apt to get a little impatient at any talk about national ruin and
agricultural distress. 'They talk of public distress,' said the
General this day to me at dinner, as he smacked a glass of rich
burgundy and cast his eyes about the ample board: 'They talk of public
distress, but where do we find it, sir? I see none; I see no reason
anyone has to complain. Take my word for it, sir, this talk about
public distress is all humbug!'"

At Evesham, long before the depression grew into a debacle, the
shadows of coming events could easily be detected. There was the
disappearance of the long rows of farmers' conveyances at the inns in
the town on market-days; there was the eclipse of shops--for other
than necessities--such as a little fish shop, opposite the corner at
the cross roads; a corner where much business was formerly transacted
in the open street, and where I myself have sold by sample some
thousands of sacks of wheat. A tempting little shop it used to be,
displaying shining Severn salmon; and it was here that the farmers,
after the market, obtained the supplies commanded by the missus at

And there was the abandonment of the Corn Market proper, for the class
of farmers who survived hated to transact their business indoors. The
attendance of millers and dealers, except of those who had cargoes of
foreign corn at Gloucester or Bristol to dispose of, became irregular.
Sales of farm stock and implements took place in every village on
farms which had passed from father to son for generations, coupled
with the sacrifice of valuable implements and machinery for want of
buyers. There followed the stage when landowners who could find no
tenants, and had heavily mortgaged estates, essayed to make the best
of them by laying away the arable land to pasture, undertaking the
management themselves with, perhaps, an old broken-down tenant as
bailiff. The politicians and the general public did not apprehend the
danger of the situation, in spite of innumerable warnings, until the
German submarines were sending our foreign food supplies to the bottom
of the sea; and now that the immediate danger of starvation has
passed, they appear already to have lapsed again into an attitude of

We hear the blessed word "reconstruction" on every side, but the only
official propositions for the permanent establishment of agricultural
prosperity that I have heard are utterly inadequate. It is ridiculous
to suppose that a few thousand acres of special crops, like tobacco,
for instance, only possible in favoured spots, can in any way
compensate for the loss of millions of acres of arable land under
rotations of corn and green crops. Under present conditions nothing is
more certain than the abandonment of arable land as such; and it is
folly to talk of novel systems of transport for a dwindling output, or
of building labourers' cottages at an unjustifiable cost, which are
never likely to be wanted by a dying industry.

Among my experiences of abnormal weather, I have a note of a
remarkable summer flood on July 21, 1875, when my hay was lying in the
meadows beside the brooks, and had to be removed to higher ground in
pouring rain to prevent its disappearance with the current. On the
following day, July 22, the highest flood since 1845 occurred at

October 14, 1877, was memorable for the most terrific south-west gale
that happened in all the years I passed at Aldington; thirteen trees,
mostly old apple trees and elms, were blown down, including the
splendid veteran "Chate boy" pear tree at Blackminster, an exceedingly
sad and irreparable loss. The gale blew hardest in special tracks, the
course of which could be followed by the destruction of trees and
branches in distinct lanes, cut through woods and plantations.

The winter of 1880-1881 was very severe, the mean temperature of
January, 1881, being 27.8 degrees F., the coldest January since 1820.
Ten years later, 1890-1891, another very prolonged winter occurred:
the frost began on the 6th of December, and, with scarcely a break,
continued till well into February. The feature of this frost was the
fine settled weather, and the warmth of the midday sun in the
brilliant air, when skaters could sit on the river banks and enjoy
their rest and lunch in its rays. I took my elder daughter back to
school at Richmond at the end of January, and in London we saw the
Thames choked by huge hummocks of ice, on which people were crossing
the river. An ox was roasted whole on the Avon at Evesham, and, when
the frost broke up, the ice on our millpond was 17 inches thick.

Another great frost happened in 1894-1895, beginning late in December,
and lasting till the end of February, with a single intervening week
of thaw; and in March the ground, in places, was too hard to plough.
It was the only time that I was completely at a loss to find work for
my men; all the carting was finished in the early days of the frost,
and all the thrashing possible followed; ploughing and all working of
the land, or draining, were impracticable. The men, seeing that there
would be no employment for them until the frost broke up, told me that
if they might get what wood they could from fallen trees in the brook,
and if I would lend them horses and carts to get it home, they would
be glad to work in that way for themselves for a time. Just as they
had cleared both brooks from end to end of the farm which occupied
them about ten days, the thaw came and I was able to find them plenty
to do.

We suffered very little from droughts at Aldington, the land was
naturally so retentive of moisture, but 1893 was a dry year, not
easily forgotten; no rain fell from early in March to July 13; the hay
crop was the lightest in remembrance, and straw was so short and
scarce that the hay-ricks of the following year, 1894, had to go
unthatched until the harvest of that year provided the necessary

The spring of 1895 was remarkable for a plague of the caterpillars of
the winter-moth, due to the destruction of insect-eating birds by the
great frost; the caterpillars devoured the young leaves of the
plum-trees, so that whole orchards were completely stripped. The
balance between insectivorous birds and caterpillar life was destroyed
for a time, and the caterpillars conquered the plum-trees. In 1917,
during the persistent north-east blasts of February, March, and part
of April, the destruction of birds was terrible; all the tit tribe
suffered greatly, and the charming little golden-crested wren, which
here in the Forest was quite common, has scarcely been seen since.
Caterpillars again were a plague in my apple trees that spring, but
were not really destructive, and in the autumn the apples escaped
their usual punishment from the birds and wasps. Tits are often very
troublesome; they peck holes in the fruit, apparently in search of the
larvae of the codlin moth, leaving an opening for wasps and flies. I
find the berries of the laurel, which is a species of cherry, very
attractive to blackbirds, and as long as there are any left they seem
to prefer them to the apples. In 1895 cuckoos came to the rescue of my
young plum orchard; there were dozens of them at work on the nine
acres at once, and they must have cleared away an immense number of
the grubs.

The most remarkable season we have had since I left Aldington was the
great drought of 1911. There was no rain here worth mention from June
22, the Coronation of King George V., until August 30, and the
pastures on this thin land were burnt up. On August 30 we had some
friends for tennis, and we had not been playing long before a mighty
cloud-burst occurred; the rain fell in torrents. "It didn't stop to
rain, it tumbled down," as my men used to say, and in about half an
hour the lawn was a sheet of water, the ground being so hard, that it
could not soak away. It was all over in an hour, and a neighbour with
a rain-gauge registered 0.66 of an inch of rain, equal to 66 tons on
an acre, or 330 tons on my five acres.

One of my ambitions has always been to see a Will-o'-the-wisp, and I
am still hoping; but that hot summer, had I known it at the time, they
were quite common within an easy walk of my house in the New Forest.
There was some correspondence on the subject in _The Observer_, and
the following is extracted from one of the letters:

"As none of your correspondents seem to be aware of a comparatively
recent instance, I write to say that there were enough indubitable
Will-o'-the-wisps to convince the most incredulous during the
extremely hot weather of July, 1911.

"From July 18 to 22 I was at Thorney Hill in the New Forest, some
seven miles behind Christchurch. Owing to the abnormal drought the
bogs and bog-streams at the foot of the hill westward were all but
dry; a dense mist, however, sometimes rose from them at night. On July
19, and the three following nights, the Will-o'-the-wisps were in
great form over the bog. They were like small balls of bluish fire,
which projected themselves with hops and jerks across the most
inaccessible parts of the bog, starting always, so far as could be
told, from where a little stagnant moisture still remained. They moved
with an erratic velocity, so to speak, appearing and reappearing at
distances of several hundred yards. There wasn't the slightest doubt
of their authenticity.

"The inhabitants of Thorney Hill, I believe, regarded these
appearances with alarm, as being, though not exactly novelties,
harbingers of much misfortune. But the drought was quite bad enough,
without having the Jack-o'-lanterns to accentuate it!"

This instance was the more remarkable as I have never succeeded in
finding anyone, even among people who are constantly on duty in the
Forest, who could testify to having seen a Will-o'-the-wisp.

Waterspouts are, I believe, more frequently seen at sea than on land,
but I have an account from my brother, Mr. F.E. Savory, of one he saw
many years ago in Wiltshire. He writes:

"When I was at Manningford Bruce in 1873 or 1874, I saw a dense black
cloud travelling towards the southeast, the lower part of which became
pointed like a funnel in shape, waving about as it descended until, I
suppose, the attraction of the earth overcame the cohesion of the
cloud's vapour, and it discharged itself. I could see it looking
lighter and lighter, from the middle outwards, until it was entirely
dispersed. I heard that the water fell on the side of the Down near
Collingbourne, about five miles off, and washed some of the soil away,
but I did not see that. The weather was stormy, but I do not remember
the time of year or any other particulars."

It would seem that a waterspout is caused by a whirlwind entering a
cloud and gathering vapour together by its rotary action into such a
heavy mass that it descends in the funnel shape described. We are all
familiar with the small whirlwinds that travel across a road in
summer, carrying the dust round and round with them; these are called
"whirly-curlies" in Worcestershire, and are regarded as a sign of fine
weather. I have sometimes seen quite a strong one crossing rows of hay
just ready to carry, cutting a clean track through each row, and
leaving the ground bare where it passed. The hay is often carried to a
great height, and sometimes dropped in an adjoining field.

On a bright morning in summer one often sees, a little distance away,
a tremulous or flickering movement in the air, not far from the
ground, which Tennyson refers to in _In Memoriam_, as, "The landscape
winking thro' the heat"; and again in _The Princess_:

"All the rich to come
Reels, as the golden Autumn woodland reels
Athwart the smoke of burning weeds."

I am told that this appearance is "due to layers of air of different
degrees of refracting power, in motion, relative to one another. Air
at different temperatures will refract light differently." In
Hampshire this phenomenon is known by the pretty name of "the summer

Since I came to the Forest I have seen two very curious and, I think,
unusual natural appearances. As I was cycling one rather dull
afternoon from Wimborne to Ringwood, I noticed a colourless rainbow,
or perhaps I should say, "mist-bow," for there was no rain, and the
sun was partially obscured. The sun was about south-west, and the bow
was north-east; it was merely a series of well-defined but colourless
segments of circles, close to each other but shaded so as to make them
distinguishable, arranged exactly like a rainbow but without a trace
of colour beyond a grey uniformity. It was on my left for several
miles, perhaps half of the total distance of nine miles between the
two towns.

Cycling another day between Lyndhurst and Burley, I reached the east
entrance of Burley Lodge, which is on higher ground than the farm
spread out to the right in the valley. The whole valley was filled
with thick white mist, as level as a lake, so that nothing could be
seen of the fields. The setting sun was low down at the further
extremity of the valley, and the surface of the mist-lake reflected
its rays in a rosy sheen, with a track of brighter light in the
middle, stretching from the far end of the lake in a broad path almost
to where I was standing; just as we see the track of sunlight or
moonlight, sometimes, on the sea, from the shore. This phenomenon is
not uncommon when one is looking down from the top of a hill in the
sunshine, upon a valley full of mist, but I have never seen it before
from comparatively low ground, as on this occasion.

My summers at Aldington were nearly always too busy to allow me to
take a holiday, except for a very few days, but when the urgent work
of the year was over, the harvest completed, and the hops and the
fruit picked, we always had a clear month away from home, about the
middle of October to the middle of November; and, as we found the
autumn much less advanced in the south than in the midlands, we often
spent the time on the south coast or in the Isle of Wight, and we were
nearly always favoured by fine weather. On one of these occasions,
when we were exploring the whole island on bicycles, I never once
found it necessary to carry a waterproof cape, though in the course of
this visit we rode over 600 miles.




"Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from heaven or near it,
Pourest thy full heart."
--SHELLEY: _To a Skylark_.

We read of the peacocks which Solomon's navy of Tarshish brought once
in three years with other rare and precious commodities to contribute
to the splendour of his court; and doubtless their magnificence added
a distinct feature even where so much that was beautiful was to be
seen; but, to show itself off to the best advantage, one cannot
imagine a better place for a peacock than a grey old English home,
round whose mellow stone walls time is lingering lovingly. The touch
of brilliant life beside the appeal of the venerable past adds
perfection to the picture. I have always had an immense admiration for
peacocks, and soon after I came to Aldington I bought a pair. The cock
we named Gabriel Junks, after the famous bird in one of Scrutator's
books; he was a grand presence, and loved to display the huge fan of
his gorgeously-eyed tail, quivering his rattling quills in all the
glory of its greens and blues, and cinnamon-coloured wing feathers, on
the little piece of lawn under the chestnut trees in front of the

He learned to come to the window every morning at breakfast-time for a
piece of bread-and-butter, and if the window was closed he would rap
impatiently upon it with his beak. He roosted in the orchard just
across the road on the trunk of an ancient leaning apple-tree. One
night Bell heard a terrible fluttering, and looking out saw a fox
making off with the peacock; he shouted and the fox dropped the
peacock and bolted. Gabriel was not hurt, but sadly ruffled inwardly
and outwardly, though, next day, he was quite happy and apparently
unconscious of his narrow escape. But alas! some months later Reynard
paid another visit, and poor Gabriel was never seen again. Some years
after we bought another pair, not nearly so tame as the first, and
sometimes flying on to the cottage roofs and scraping holes in the
thatch in which to bask in the sun. The villagers complained that the
birds sat under their black currant bushes, and devoured the currants
as fast as they ripened! We could not keep them within bounds, and
later sold them to St. John's College, Oxford, where we saw them soon
afterwards in good plumage, and exactly in keeping with their
beautiful surroundings.

One of my neighbours appeared to find these birds a special
infliction, and complained of the invasion of his premises by "them
paycocks." The word "pea" is always rendered "pay" in Worcestershire,
and, like "tay" for "tea," is probably the old correct pronunciation.
I lately saw a notice on some tumble-down premises near Southampton,
"Pay and bane stiks for sale." Another notice, not too happily
composed, is to be seen at a Forest village; after the owner's name,
"Carpenter, builder and undertaker--_repairs neatly executed_."

The neighbour referred to was exercised in his mind as to my position
in various unwelcome parochial offices, but I was completely mystified
when he told me that he had read in history of a King Alfred, but had
never heard of a King Arthur. I did not grasp the force of his remark,
possibly because King Arthur was a familiar character to me, until I
was nearly at my own door, when it dawned upon me to my intense
enjoyment. If the reader fails, like me, to see the point, let him
turn to the title-page of this book, and read the name of the writer.

The only real objection to peacocks, under ordinary conditions, is the
discordance of their cries, especially in thundery weather, when they
scream in answer to every thunder-clap. Cock pheasants, relatives of
the peacock, crow loudly at any unusual noise; and I have known them
expostulate at the report of a gun; they took flight, after running to
a safe distance, and their crow appeared to be in the nature of a
challenge or defiance, just as a barn-door cock will exult if you give
him the idea that he has driven you away.

When the vessel which carried the coffin of Queen Victoria was
crossing the Solent, in 1901, some very heavy salutes were fired from
the battleships, and, the day being still and the air clear, the
detonations carried to an immense distance. They were distinctly heard
at Moreton-in-the-Marsh, only fourteen miles from Aldington and a
distance of nearly one hundred miles from the guns, in a direct line.
The reports were so loud at Woodstock, near Oxford, that the pheasants
began crowing in the Blenheim preserves.

At Alton there were some extensive woods and coppices on the farm,
which were favourite breeding-places for pheasants, being dry and
sunny. Some months before October 1, when pheasant shooting begins, a
white pheasant was seen, and although he disappeared for a time, he
fell eventually to the gun of the tenant. He was a beautiful bird, and
was considered worth stuffing as a rarity. Albinism is not uncommon in
the blackbird; I have seen two partial instances lately; one was
constantly visible in my garden and meadows, with head nearly all
white, and the other I saw in the public garden at Bournemouth, with
the peculiarity still more developed. A white martin, or swallow, came
into the house of a friend near Aldington, and was regarded as an
unfavourable omen. Melanism, the opposite of albinism, is rarer, and
the only instance I have seen was that of a black bullfinch at
Aldington; it had evidently been mobbed as a stranger by other birds
of its kind, as it was injured and nearly dead when captured. I had
the specimen stuffed as a curiosity, though I am not fond of stuffed
birds. It is said that hemp-seed, if given in undue quantities to cage
bullfinches, will produce the black colour, even upon a bird of quite
natural plumage originally, and a case of the kind is mentioned by
Gilbert White.

Aldington, with its quiet apple orchards and the "island" and
shrubberies below my garden, was a happy refuge for birds of all
kinds, and the old pollard-willow heads a favourite nesting-place.
Worcestershire people have some very curious names for birds, and some
of these are also heard in Hampshire and Dorset. The green woodpecker
is the "stock-eagle," "ekal," or "hickle," both in Worcestershire and
Hampshire, and the word survives too in "Hickle Brook" in the Forest,
and in "Hickle Street," a part of Buckle Street in Worcestershire. As
a boy I once marked a green woodpecker into one of the round holes we
see quite newly cut by the bird in an oak; getting a butterfly net I
clapped it over the hole, caught the bird, took it home and placed it
in a wicker cage. Then, returning to the tree with a chisel and
mallet, I cut a hole about a foot below the entrance to the nest, only
to find young birds instead of the eggs for which I had hoped. I went
home to see how my captive was getting on; she was gone, and her
method of escape was plain, one or two of the wicker bars being neatly
cut through. I had forgotten the power of "stocking" of a
"stock-eagle," for that is the meaning of the prefix in the name.

The laughing cry of the green woodpecker, or "yaffle," as the bird is
by onomatopoeia called in some parts, is regarded as a sign of rain. I
doubt whether it should be always so interpreted, for I know it is
sometimes a sign of distress or call for help, having heard it from
one in full flight from a pursuing hawk. Other curious local names of
birds in Worcestershire are "Blue Isaac" for hedge sparrow,
"mumruffin" for long-tailed tit, "maggot" for magpie, and the heron is
always called "bittern" (really quite a distinct bird). There are
innumerable rhymes as to the signification of numbers where magpies
are concerned, but the most complete I have heard runs thus:

"One's joy, two's grief,
Three's marriage, four's death,
Five's heaven, six is hell,
Seven's the devil his own sel'."

Other rhymes make "one" an unlucky number, and there are many people
in Worcestershire who never see a solitary magpie without touching
their hats to avert the omen, and convert it to one of good-luck; as a
man once said to me, "It is as well not to lose a chance."

The kingfisher, I suppose the most beautiful of British birds, was,
with all my brooks, a common bird at Aldington. Its steady flight,
following the course of a stream, and its brilliant colouring make it
very conspicuous, its turquoise blue varying to dark green, and its
orange breast flashing in the sun. I found a nest in a water-rat's old
hole, with six very transparent white eggs, deriving a rosy tint from
the yolk, almost visible, within the shell. The hole had an entrance
above the bank, descended vertically, turned at a right angle where
the nest, merely a layer of small fish-bones, was placed, and ended
horizontally on the side of the bank. I once saw six young kingfishers
sitting side by side on a dead branch, close together, evidently just
out of the nest. And I was fortunate in seeing a kingfisher dart upon
the water, hover for an instant like a hawk-moth over honeysuckle,
and, having caught a small gudgeon, fly away with it in its beak.
They, like the martin, always perch on leafless wood, so that the
leaves shall not impede their flight when pouncing upon a fish, and no
doubt this is the reason they sometimes perch on the top joint of the
rod of a hidden fisherman.

The nuthatch, called here the "mud-dauber," from its habit of
narrowing the hole of a starling's old nest, with mud, for its own use
as a nesting-place, is a more common bird in the Forest than in
Worcestershire. It is a provident bird, firmly wedging hazel nuts in
the autumn into crevices of the Scots-fir, for a winter store, Bewick
mentions that it uses these crevices as vices, to hold the nut
securely, while it cracks it; but he does not recognize the fact that
they have been stored long previously. I have seen a great number of
nuts so stored and quite sound.

Bewick, by the way, who wrote his _History of British Birds_ in 1797,
presents in one of his inimitable "tailpiece" wood-cuts a prevision of
the aeroplane. The picture shows the airman seated in a winged car,
guiding with reins thirteen harnessed herons as the motive power, and
mounting upwards, apparently very near the moon. If he can see the
modern interpretation of his dream he must be pleasantly surprised.
Bewick's woodcock is one of the most beautiful portraits in the book:
the accurate detail of the feather markings of the wings and back and
the softer tone of the breast are as nearly perfection as possible. A
woodcock visited Aldington in one of the very severe winters but
managed to elude all pursuers. It has been said, and also
contradicted, that the woodcock when rising from the ground uses its
long bill as a lever to assist its starting, just as an oarsman pushes
off from the bank with a boat-hook or oar; I myself have seen one
rising from a bare and marshy place, and the position of its bill
certainly gave me the impression that the idea was well founded.

The woodcock often breeds in the south of England, but is usually a
migrating bird, arriving during the first moon in November; it is not
difficult to shoot when it first rises, but when steam is really up
and it is zig-zagging between the branches of an oak, it takes a good
shot to make sure of it. I shall never forget the first woodcock I
shot as a boy; it was a thick misty day in November, I fired, and
though I felt certain I had not missed, the smoke hung and the air was
too thick to see, and, after a long search, I left the wood and was
going home when our old spaniel, Flush, turned his head to examine
something in a deep cart rut. Following the direction of his eyes, I
saw my woodcock; it must have flown 100 yards or more after I fired. I
was still more pleased with the last shot I fired in our old Surrey
covers at a woodcock going like an express train--and faster, for they
are said to fly at the rate of 150 miles an hour--with all his tricks,
through thick branches in the adjoining cover, where he fell at least
65 yards from where I stood. A friend of mine had the good-fortune to
see an old woodcock, which had evidently bred in his woods, flying,
followed by five or six young ones; he said it was one of the
prettiest bits of natural history he had ever seen.

"If a woodcock had a partridge's breast
He'd be the best bird that ever was dressed;
If a partridge had a woodcock's thigh
He'd be the best bird that ever did fly."

is a very old description, and fairly divides the honours between the
two birds.

The hawfinch is very easily recognized by its distinct and beautiful
colouring; it is a shy bird, and though it bred regularly at
Aldington, we rarely saw it. It is commoner here, and is sometimes
very destructive, its powerful beak making havoc with the
"marrowfats"; but, though I am partial to green peas of this
description, I would sooner suffer some damage than have the
hawfinches shot.

In 1918 the cuckoos were exceedingly numerous here, and round my house
they were calling all day long. Owing to the terrible winter and early
spring months of the previous year, so many of the insectivorous birds
had been destroyed, that the caterpillars had escaped, and were more
numerous than ever in the following spring. The oaks in places were
completely stripped of their foliage by the larvae of _Tortrix
viridana_, almost as soon as the leaves were out. The cuckoos
discovered them, but were not in sufficient numbers to keep them down,
and it was midsummer before the trees recovered. I have referred to
the damage in my plum orchard at Aldington from the attack of the
larvae of the winter-moth; the damage is not confined to the actual
year of its occurrence, the crop suffers the following year owing to
the previous defoliation of the tree, which is weakened and is unable
to mature healthy fruit buds. At Aldington, in a hot summer, the
cuckoos used to call nearly all night, and I have heard them when it
was quite dark.

For some years, until 1918, goldfinches were quite common in Hampshire
and Dorsetshire. I have seen a flock of over forty together. I had
seven nests on my premises here one summer; they go on breeding very
late, and I have found their nests with young birds half-fledged while
summer-pruning apple trees in August. They come into my garden close
to the windows in May, after the ripening seeds of the myosotis
(forget-me-not) in the spring-bedding. I never remember seeing a
goldfinch at Aldington, which should show that the thistles were well
under control, for the seed is a great attraction. One often hears the
practice of allowing thistles to run to seed condemned as criminal,
for everybody knows that each thistle-down, carried by the wind,
contains a seed, and that the attachment of a light structure of
plumes is one of Nature's methods of ensuring dissemination. But, in
Worcestershire, it is always asserted that thistle seed will not
germinate--I am referring to _Cnicus arvensis_--and it is said that a
prize of L50 offered for a seedling thistle remains unclaimed to this
day. I failed, myself, in trying to obtain young plants from seeds
sown in a flower-pot, and I have never seen a seedling in all the
thousands of miles I must have walked over young cornfields when my
men were hoeing.

I have heard an interesting story about rooks which were causing a
farmer much damage in a field newly sown with peas. He erected a small
shelter of hurdles, from which to shoot them, and for a time the
shelter was sufficient to scare them, until they got used to it; but,
when he entered it with his gun, they would not come near. Thinking to
deceive their sentinel, watching from a tree, he took a companion to
the shelter, who remained for a time and then left, but still no rooks
came near. The farmer then took two companions, and presently sent
them both away. The arithmetic was too much for the rooks, and the
scheme succeeded. He concluded that their powers of enumeration were
limited to counting "two," and that "three" was beyond them.

Nightingales are scarce in the Forest; they do not like the solitude
of the great woods, apparently preferring to inhabit roadsides and
places where people and traffic are constantly passing. They are
specially abundant at the foot of the Cotswolds, and it is a treat to
cycle steadily along the road between Broadway and Weston Subedge on a
summer evening, where you no sooner lose the liquid notes of one, than
you enter the territory of another, so continuous is the song for
miles together.

In severe winters wood-pigeons did much damage at Aldington to young
clover a few inches high; they roosted in "the island" adjoining my
garden. When they first descended they alighted in the wide-spreading
branches of the leafless black poplars, where they could see all
round, and reconnoitre the position; then, if all was quiet, in about
ten minutes they took to the shelter of the fir trees for the night
with much fluttering and beating of wings against the thick branches.
They devour the acorns in the Forest very greedily in the autumn, and
I have seen one with crop so full that on my approach it could only
with difficulty fly away to a short distance. I found it near a small
pond where, apparently, it had been drinking, and the acorns had
expanded to an inconvenient extent.

The golden-crested wren was a common bird here before the severe
winter of 1916-1917, but it has since become comparatively rare; it is
the smallest of British birds, and could often be seen in the hedges
exploring every twig and crevice for insects, and it was a great
pleasure to watch the nimble movements of such a sweet little fairy.
Its first cousin, the fire-crest, which is almost its exact
counterpart, except for the flame-coloured crest, is much rarer; and I
only remember seeing one specimen, to which with great circumspection
I managed to approach quite closely, in the wood near my house.

One morning, at Aldington, the gardener came in to say there was a
hawk in the greenhouse near the rickyard; we found a pane of glass
broken, where it had unintentionally entered in pursuit of a sparrow;
the hawk was uninjured, and flew away quite unconcernedly on the
opening of the door. Another hawk, here in Burley, was found dead near
my drawing-room bow-window. It had dashed itself against a pane of
thick plate-glass while in pursuit of a starling, I think; seeing the
light through the bow, it had not recognized the glass, and must have
collided with it in the act of swooping. I have several times seen
hawks descend like a flash from a tree, and select an unlucky starling
from a flock; one blow on the head settled the victim before I could
reach the spot, but sometimes the hawk had to leave its prize behind

I was watching a number of young chicks feeding outside the coops
containing the mother hens, when there suddenly arose a great
disturbance, and a hawk, which had pounced upon a chick, was seen
flying away with it in its talons. Its flight was impeded by the
weight of the chicken, and we gave chase shouting. Flying very low it
carried its prey to the further side of the meadow, but, seeing that
it could not get quickly through the trees there, it dropped the
chicken and escaped; we picked up the poor frightened infant, which
was not injured, and restored it to a perturbed but joyful mother. "As
yaller as a kite's claw," is a simile one hears in the country, and it
is common to both Hampshire and Worcestershire.

I never saw the wheatear in Worcestershire, but here I notice several
pairs on the moors in summer. They were once very plentiful on the
Sussex Downs and seaside cliffs, and as a boy walking from my first
school at Rottingdean to visit my people at Brighton, from Saturday to
Sunday night, I have passed hundreds of traps consisting of
rectangular holes cut in the turf, having horsehair nooses inside, set
by the shepherds who took thousands of wheatears to the poulterers'
shops in the town. They were then considered a great delicacy. Other
professional bird-catchers operated with large clap-nets, and a string
attached in the hands of the catcher some distance away. When they
were after larks a revolving mirror, flashing in the sun, was
considered very attractive; I suppose the birds approached from
motives of curiosity.[3] Many thousands were caught for the London and
Brighton markets for lark pies and puddings, a wicked bathos, when we
remember Wordsworth's lines:

"There is madness about thee, and joy divine
In that song of thine."

One severe winter an immense flock of golden plovers haunted my land
and neighbouring farms for some weeks, but they were exceedingly shy,
and being perfect strangers, they were difficult to identify, until I
brought one down by a very long shot, and we could see what a
beautiful bird it was. We could always tell when really severe winter
weather was coming, by the flocks of wild geese that passed overhead
in V-shaped formation. They were said to be leaving the mouth of the
Humber and the East Coast for the warmer shores of the Bristol
Channel, evidently quite aware that the latter, within the influence
of the Gulf Stream, were more desirable as winter-quarters. Evesham is
in the direct line between the two places, and we often heard them
calling at night as they passed. In the early spring when the severe
weather was-over they returned by the same route.



"The heart is hard in nature and unfit
For human fellowship, as being void
Of sympathy, and therefore dead alike
To love and friendship both, that is not pleased
With sight of animals enjoying life,
Nor feels their happiness augment his own."

There are many stories of the affection of the domestic goose for man,
and I knew of one which was very fond of a friend of mine. The goose
followed him like a dog, and would come with him on to the lawn where
we were playing tennis, and sitting close beside him on a garden seat
with great dignity would apparently watch the game with interest. My
friend was fond of unusual pets; he had a tame hedgehog, for whom he
made a most comfortable house with living-room downstairs and sleeping
apartment on the first floor. His pet's name was Jacob, suggested I
think by the ladder which night and morning he used for ascending to
or descending from his bedroom. Hedgehogs have a bad character as
robbers of partridges' nests, and in our old parish accounts, under
the name of "urchins," we find entries of payments for their
destruction at the rate of 4d. apiece.

My younger daughter had a tame duck, Susie by name, who gravely
waddled behind her round the garden. In summer at tea-time Susie would
much enjoy the company under the wych-elm on the lawn, and took her
"dish of tea" out of the saucer in the antique and orthodox manner.
Another amusing pet was a jackdaw who had an outdoor residence, though
often allowed to be loose. He acquired an exact imitation of my old
gardener's chronic cough, and enjoyed the exhibition of his
achievement when the old man was working near the cage, somewhat to
the man's annoyance. He was full of mischief, and was not allowed in
the house; but he once got in at my study window, picked out every
sheet of notepaper from my stationery case, and scattered them in all

A still more accomplished mimic, a lemon-crested cockatoo, reproduced
the voices of little hungry pigs. He lived indoors on a stand over a
tray, with a chain round one leg, and was very clever at mounting and
descending by the combined use of beak and claws, without complicating
himself with his chain. He got loose one day, and ascended one of the
chestnut trees, and a volunteer went up after him by a ladder. Cocky
resented his interference, flew at him and bit his finger to the bone.
His beak was a very powerful weapon, and, until I made him a new tray
with a zinc-covered ledge, he demolished any unprotected wood or even
furniture within reach.

This spring we had a blackbird's nest in some ivy near the house, and
many times each day the cock bird came to watch over his household,
and discourse sweet music from a neighbouring tree. A pair of jays
however appeared, and seemed too much interested in the nest for the
parents' comfort, approaching so near one morning that first the cock
blackbird, and then the hen attacked them; and though they returned
again during the day, evidently bent on mischief, the courageous
parents eventually drove them from the field, and they were seen no
more. Owing to the cutting of great fir woods in the Forest for timber
supplies for the war, jays have become much more common here than
formerly, and seem to have migrated from their former haunts and taken
to the beeches and oaks in the undisturbed woods.

Birds as a rule are not well represented in books, though the drawing
is more correct than the colouring. Examine Randolph Caldecott's _Sing
a Song for Sixpence_ for a really clever sketch of the four and twenty
blackbirds, every one a characteristic likeness, and a different
attitude; and look at his rookery in _Bracebridge Hall_, where, in
three sketches he shows some equally exact rooks.

I always walked when on my farming rounds, for one of the first
lessons I learned at Alton was that for that purpose "one walk is
better than three rides." My predecessor being a hunting man and fond
of horses, generally rode, but for careful observation, especially in
the matter of plant diseases, one wants to "potter about" with a
magnifying glass sometimes, and of course in entomology and
ornithology there is no room for a horse. One of the remarks made by
my men about me on my arrival was, "His mother larned him to walk,"
with quite a note of admiration to emphasize it. It is really
remarkable how farmers and country people scorn the idea of walking
either for pleasure or business, if "a lift" can be had. I was at
Cheltenham with a brother, and finding we had done our business in
good time, we decided to walk to the next station--Cleeve--instead of
waiting for the train at Cheltenham. We asked a native the way, who
replied with great contempt, "Cleeve station? Oh, I wouldn't walk to
Cleeve to save tuppence!"

One of our ventures in the way of pets was a well-bred poodle; he was
very amiable, handsome, and clever, but exceedingly mischievous. He
thought it great fun to pull up neatly written and carefully disposed
garden labels and carry them away to the lawn, for which, though a
nuisance, he was forgiven; but his next achievement was a more serious
matter. Finding his way about the village he would take advantage of
an open door to explore the cottage larders and when a chance offered,
would make off with half a pound of butter or a cherished piece of
meat and bring his plunder to my house in triumph. He was succeeded by
"Trump," a Dandie Dinmont, a very charming dog with a delightful
disposition, and perfectly honest until my elder daughter acquired a
fox terrier, "Chips," well-bred but highly nervous. Chips was a born
sportsman and most useful so long as he confined his activities to
rats and was busy when the thrashing-machine was at work, but when he
took to corrupting Trump's morals he required watching. Trump would be
lying quietly in the house or garden as good as possible, when the
insinuating tempter would find him, whisper a few words in his ear,
and off they went together. It was plainly an invitation, and later a
dead duckling or chicken would show where they had spent their time.
Trump became as bad as Chips and had to be given away. Chips was very
sensitive to discordant sounds, he must have had a musical ear; his
chief aversion was the sound of a gong, the beater for which was too
hard and, unless very carefully manipulated, produced a jangle. My
hall was paved with hexagonal stone sections called "quarries," which
appeared to intensify the discordance. Chips felt it keenly, and would
stand quite rigid for some minutes until the last reverberation and
its effect had passed off. He was uncertain in temper and disliked
some of the villagers. An old man complained that he had been bitten,
and told me with great feeling, "Folks say that if ever the dog goes
mad, I shall go mad too." I had much difficulty in appeasing him and
assuring him that there was no truth in the statement.

How shall I do justice to the infinite variety of "Wendy," the dainty
little Chinese princess who now rules my household? There are people
who cannot see in an old Worcester tea-cup and saucer the
eighteenth-century beauty, fastidiously sipping, what she called in
the same language as the Aldington cottager of to-day, her dish of
"tay." There are people who regard with indifference an ancient chair,
except as an object to be sat upon, and who fail to realize its
historical charm, or even the credit due to the maker of a piece of
furniture that has survived two hundred and fifty spring cleanings.

And there are people who can see nothing in the Pekingese, nothing of
the distinction and "the claims of long descent," nothing of the
possibilities of transmigration, or of present ever-changing and human
moods. Such are the people who suppose that the "dulness of the
country," and the attraction of the shams and inanities of the picture
palace induced the starving agricultural labourer willingly to
exchange the blue vault of heaven for the leaden pall of London fogs,
cool green pastures for the scorching pavement, and the fragrant
shelter of the hedgerow blossoms for the stifling slum and the crowded

There is nothing of the democrat about Wendy; watch her elevate an
already tip-tilted nose at displeasing food, or a tainted dish, and
notice her look of abject contempt for the giver as she turns away in
disgust. No lover of the Pekingese should be without a charming little
book _Some Pekingese Pets_ by M.N. Daniel, with delightful sketches by
the author, in which we are told that, "Until the year, 1860, so far
as is known, no 'Foreign Devil' had ever seen one of these Imperial
Lion Dogs. In that year, however, the sacking of the Imperial Palace
at Pekin took place, and amongst the treasures looted and brought to
England were five little Lion or Sun Dogs."

The author also says: "It is certain that the same type of Lion Dog as
our Western Pekingese must have existed in China for at least a
thousand years: that they were regarded as sacred or semi-sacred is
proved by the Idols and Kylons (many of them known to be at least a
thousand years old) representing the same type of Lion Dog." I have an
old Nankin blue teapot, the lid of which is surmounted by one of these

I can only describe Wendy's moods and characteristics by giving a bare
catalogue: she is mirthful, hopeful, playful, despairing, bored,
defiant, roguish, cunning, penitent, sensitive, aggressive, offended,
reproachful, angry, pleased, trustful, loving, disobedient,
determined, puzzled, faithful, naughty, dignified, impudent, proud,
luxurious, fearless, disappointed, docile, fierce, independent,
mischievous; and she often illustrates the rhyme:

"The dog will come when he's called,
And the cat will stay away,
But the Pekingese will do as he please
Whatever you do or say."

Wendy is cat-like in some of her habits, prefers fish to meat, sleeps
all day in wet weather but is lively towards night, is very particular
about her toilet and washes her face with moistened paws passed over
her ears. She is very sensitive to the weather, loves the sun, lying
stretched at full length on the hot gravel so that she can enjoy the
comforting warmth to her little body. She is wretched in a
thunderstorm, shivering and taking refuge beneath a table or sofa;
then she comes to me for sympathy, and lies on my knee, covered with a
rug or a newspaper, but after a bad storm she is not herself for many
hours. Anyone who does not know her may think the moods I have
detailed an impossible category, but there is not one which we have
not personally witnessed again and again, and no one can see her
loving caresses of my wife without being assured of the soul that
animates her mind and body.

Wendy is never allowed to "sit in damp clothes," or even with feet wet
with rain or dew, and looks very reproachful if not attended to at
once with a rough towel on coming indoors. "Why _don't_ you dry me?"
is exactly the expression her looks convey. She has a lined basket, on
four short legs to keep her from draughts when sleeping, but she is
often uneasy alone at night, evidently "seeing things," and, in
Worcestershire language, finding it "unked," so she is now always
allowed a night-light.

It is said that the dog's habit of turning round several times before
settling to sleep is a survival from remote ages when they made
themselves a comfortable bed by smoothing down the grass around them,
but I am quite sure that Wendy does the same thing to get her coat
unruffled, and in the best condition to protect her from draughts. She
likes to lie curled up into a circle, so that her hind paws may come
under her chin for warmth, and support her head, as her neck is so
short that without a pillow of some sort she could not rest in
comfort; as an alternative, she will sometimes arrange the rug in her
sleeping basket to act in the same way.

We had various cobs and ponies from time to time; quite a good pony
could be bought at six months old for about L12, and one of the best
we had was Taffy, from a drove of Welsh. Returning from Evesham
Station with my man we passed a labourer with something in a hamper on
his shoulder that rattled, just as we reached the Aldington turning;
Taffy started, swerved across the road in the narrowest part, and
jumped through the hedge, taking cart and all; we found ourselves in a
wheat-field, but were not overturned, and reached a gate in safety
none the worse.

On an old May Day (May 12) I was at Bretforton Manor playing tennis
and shooting rooks. About 10.30 p.m. the cart and Taffy were brought
round; I had all my things in and was about to mount when, the pony
fidgeting to be off, my friend's groom caught at the rein, but he had
omitted to buckle it on one side of the bit. In an instant pony and
trap had disappeared, and the man was lying in the drive with a broken
leg. We had to carry him home on a door, and then went in search of
the pony, expecting every moment to find it and the trap in a ditch;
about half a mile from Aldington we met my own man who had come in
search of my remains. He told us that the pony and trap were quite
safe and uninjured. The clever animal had trotted the whole distance,
over two miles, with the reins dragging behind him, taken the turning
from the highroad, and again at my gate, and pulled up in front of the
house, where someone passing saw him and brought my man out to the



"How like a rainbow, sparkling as a dewdrop,
Glittering as gold, and lively as a swallow,
Each left his grave-shroud and in rapture winged him
Up to the heavens."

I have always been fascinated by the beauty of butterflies and moths,
and I think I began collecting when I was about eleven, as I remember
having a net when I was at school at Rottingdean. My first exciting
capture was a small tortoiseshell, and I was much disappointed when I
discovered that it was quite a common insect. In 1917 some nettles
here were black with the larvae of this species, but I think they must
have been nearly all visited by the ichneumons, which pierce the skin,
laying their eggs in the living body of the larva, as the butterflies
were not specially common later. I was, however, fortunate in
identifying a specimen of the curious variety figured in Newman's
_British Butterflies_, variety 2, from one in Mr. Bond's collection;
it has a dark band crossing the middle of the upper wings, but, though
interesting, it is not so handsome as the type. I did not catch this
specimen, as I do not like killing butterflies now, but I had ample
leisure to observe it quite closely on the haulm of potatoes. It was
decidedly smaller than the type.

The old garden at Aldington in the repose of a June evening was a
place of fragrant joy from honeysuckle on poles and arches, and just
as the light was fading the huge privet hawk-moths, with quivering
wings and extended probosces, used to sip the honey from the long
blossoms. I could catch them in a net, but these specimens were nearly
all damaged from their energetic flight among the flowers, and perfect
ones are easy to rear from the larvae, feeding in autumn on privet in
the hedges.

Later in the summer the Ghost Swift appeared about twilight, the white
colour of the male making it very conspicuous. Twilight at Aldington
is called "owl light," and moths of all kinds are "bob-owlets," from
their uneven flight when trying to evade the owls in pursuit. We often
see these birds "hawking" at nightfall in my meadows round the edge of
the Forest after moths.

The martagon lily flourished in the Aldington garden, and when they
were blooming the overpowering scent was particularly attractive to
moths of the _Plusia_ genus, including the Burnished Brass, the Golden
Y, and the Beautiful Golden Y, all exhibiting very distinctive
markings of burnished gold; and other _Noctuae_ in great variety. The
latter are best taken by "sugaring"--painting patches of mixed beer
and sugar on a series of tree trunks, and making several rounds at
twilight with a lantern and a cyanide bottle. We had a sugaring range
of about seventy pollard withies by the brook side, and being well
sheltered, it was such a favourite place for moths, that it was often
difficult to select from each patch, swarming with sixty or seventy
specimens, those really worth taking. At sugaring moths are found in a
locality where they are never seen at other times, and rarities occur
quite unexpectedly. I took some specimens of _Cymatophora ocularis_
(figure of 80). Newman says: "It is always esteemed a rarity," and
mentions Worcester as a locality. _Mamestra abjecta_ was quite a
common catch, of which Newman writes:

"It seems to be very local, and so imperfectly known that
the recorded habitats must be received with great doubt; it
is certainly abundant on the banks of the Thames, near
Gravesend, and also on the Irish coast, near Waterford."

The marks of sugaring remain on tree trunks for many years. I lately
saw the faint remains on about sixty trees in Set Thorns plantation,
in the Forest, which a friend and I painted on nearly forty years ago.
This friend was fortunate in capturing the black variety of the White
Admiral, in which the white markings are entirely absent on the upper
side; and, thirty years later, his son took another near Burley. The
son also caught a Camberwell Beauty on one of his sugared patches in
the day-time. I believe this to be the only recorded instance of the
occurrence of this rare and beautiful insect in the Forest.

The Hornet Clearwing (_Sesia Apiformis_) is a very interesting moth,
and it was common at Aldington; the larva feeds on the wood of the
black poplar. The colouring of the moth so resembles the hornet, that
at first sight it is easily mistaken for the latter. It is an
excellent example of "mimicry," whereby a harmless insect acquires the
distinctive appearance of a harmful one, and so secures immunity from
the attacks of its natural enemies.

The larva of the Death's Head was not uncommon at Aldington and Badsey
on potatoes; I had a standing offer of threepence each for any that
the village children could bring me. These large caterpillars require
very careful handling, and I fear the children were not gentle enough
with them, as I only had one perfect specimen moth from all the larvae
they brought.

One of my hop-pickers captured and presented me with a very fine
specimen of the Convolvulus Hawk-moth at Aldington; they were
generally comparatively common that year (1901) and a collector took
no less than seventeen in a few days in the public garden at

The Clouded Yellow butterfly, whose appearance is very capricious,
occurred one summer in Worcestershire in considerable numbers; it is
strong on the wing and could easily reach the Midlands in fine weather
from the south of England, where it is more often seen. Those I saw
were flying high over clover fields, apparently in a hurry to get
further north-west.

The Marbled White is a somewhat local butterfly; there was a spot
along the Terrace on Cleeve Hill, near North Littleton and Cleeve
Prior, where, at the proper time, this insect was plentiful, but I
never saw it anywhere else in the neighbourhood.

One of the entomological prizes of the New Forest is the Purple
Emperor; it is impossible to do justice to the wonderful sheen of its
powerful wings. It inhabits the tops of lofty oaks, but does not
disdain to come down for a drink of water, sometimes from a muddy
pool, or even to feast on dead vermin which the keepers have

The Comma, so called from the C-mark on the under side of the hind
wings, is fairly plentiful in Worcestershire and Herefordshire in the
hop-districts, for the hop is its food plant; but it is curious that,
with the abundance of hops in Kent, Sussex, and Hants, it is quite a
rare insect in the south of England. The ragged edge of its hind wings
is probably an arrangement to baffle birds in pursuit, offering more
difficulty to securing a sure hold than is afforded by the even margin
of the hind wings of most butterflies.

In some years wasps were exceedingly troublesome at Aldington, and
fruit picking became a hazardous business. One of my men ploughed up a
nest in an open field, and was badly stung, though the horses, being
further from the nest when turned up, escaped. It is quite necessary
to destroy any nests on or near land where fruit is grown, as the
insects increase in numbers at a surprising rate, and they travel
great distances after food for the grubs. I had an instructive walk
over the fruit farm of my son-in-law, Mr. C.S. Martin, of Dunnington
Heath, near Alcester, with his cousin, Mr. William Martin, who is
extraordinarily clever at locating the nests. He quickly recognizes a
line of flight in which numbers of wasps can be seen going backwards
and forwards, in a well-defined cross-country track, follows it up and
locates the nest a long distance from where he first perceived the
line. In this way during our walk he found a dozen or more nests. In
the evening, when the inmates were at home, they were treated with a
strong solution of cyanide of potassium to destroy the winged insects;
and the next day the nests were dug out and the grubs destroyed, which
otherwise would become perfect wasps.

Lately it has become a custom to pay a half-penny each for all queen
wasps in the spring, but Mr. C.S. Martin, who had many years'
experience on the fruit plantations of the Toddington Orchard Company,
extending to about 700 acres, as well as on his own plantations at
Dunnington, writes to me as follows on the subject:

"To catch the queens in the spring is to my mind a waste of
time, and I discontinued paying for their capture, as the
number visible in the spring appeared to bear no relation to
the resulting summer nests. In the first place, the number
of queens in spring is always greatly in excess of the
numbers of nests, and to attempt to catch all the queens is
a hopeless job. As a rule, I don't think one per cent, ever
gets as far as a nest unless the weather conditions are very
favourable. Heavy rain, when the broods begin, may easily
wipe out 99 per cent., and only those on a dry bank will
survive. To pay a halfpenny per queen may be equivalent to
the payment of four and twopence per nest!"

Referring to the payment of school-children for the destruction of
white butterflies he writes:

"The white butterfly is extraordinarily prolific, and to
catch a few in the garden is a complete waste of time.
Again, weather conditions are largely responsible for the
occurrence of a bad attack, and the only possible time to
reduce the plague is in the caterpillar stage, with
hellebore powder, or one of the proprietary remedies,
applied to the young plants. Scientists recommend the
catching of queen wasps, and also butterflies, but I regard
this as a case where science is not strictly practical."

There is, of course, the danger, too, that children will not recognize
the difference between the female of the Orange Tip butterfly, which
is practically colourless, and the cabbage whites, and it would be
worse than a crime to destroy so joyous and welcome a creature, whose
advent is one of the pleasantest signs that summer is nigh at hand. I
have watched these fairy sprites dancing along the hedge sides at
Aldington year by year, and in May they were extraordinarily abundant
here, happily coursing round and round my meadow, and chasing each
other in the sunshine. The Orange Tip is quite innocent of designs
upon the homely cabbage, the food-plant of the caterpillar being
_Cardamine pratensis_ (the cuckoo flower), which Shakespeare speaks of
so prettily in the lines:

"When daisies pied and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white."

Possibly Hood was thinking of the Orange Tip when he wrote the lines
that seem so well suited to them:

"These be the pretty genii of the flowers
Daintily fed with honey and pure dew."

A story is told of an undergraduate who united the hind wings of a
butterfly to the body and fore wings of one of a different species,
and, thinking to puzzle Professor Westwood, then the entomological
authority at Oxford, asked if the Professor could tell him "what kind
of a bug" it was. "Yes," was the immediate reply--"a humbug!"

One of my schoolfellows, a boy about eleven, at Rottingdean school,
and quite a novice at butterfly collecting, met a professional
"naturalist" on the Warren at Folkestone, who inquired what he had
taken. "Only a few whites," said the boy. The man looked at them and,
eventually, they negotiated an exchange, the boy accepting three or
four others for an equal number of the whites. On reaching home he
found that he had parted with specimens of the rare Bath White,
_Pieris daplidice_, for some quite common butterflies. The Bath White
is not recognized as a British species, Newman supposing the specimens
taken in this country to have been blown over or migrated from the
northern coast of France, as they have been rarely met with away from
the shores of Kent and Sussex.

It is surprising to find so many people who seem unable to exercise
their powers of observation to the extent of noticing the butterflies
they daily pass in the garden, or along the roads. One would expect
that the marvellous colouring of even our common butterflies would
arrest attention, and that interest in the names and life-history
would follow.

In June in the Forest the rather alarming stag-beetle is to be seen on
the wing on a warm evening; though really harmless, its size and habit
of buzzing round frightens people who are not acquainted with its
ways. They are called locally, "pinch-bucks," as their horns resemble
the antlers of a buck, and they can nip quite hard by pressing them
together. I once saw a fight between a stag-beetle and a toad, it had
evidently been proceeding for some time as both combatants were
exhausted, but neither had gained any special advantage.



"I may soberly confess that sometimes, walking abroad after
my studies, I have been almost mad with pleasure--the effect
of nature upon my soul having been inexpressibly ravishing
and beyond what I can convey to you."

I suppose that the bicycle has given, and gives, as much pleasure to
fairly active people as any machine ever invented. I must have been
one of the first cyclists in England, as my experience dates from the
days when bicycles were first imported from France. The high bicycle
appeared later, but the earlier machines were about the height of the
present safety, with light wooden wheels and iron tyres. The safety,
with pneumatic tyres, did not arrive till nearly thirty years later,
and it was the latter invention that brought about the popularity of

The difference between cycling and walking has been stated thus:

"When a man walks a mile he takes on an average 2,263 steps,
lifting the weight of his body with each step. When he rides
a bicycle of the average gear he covers a mile with the
equivalent of 627 steps, bears no burden, and covers the
same distance in less than one third of the time."

People constantly tell me that cycling is all very well for getting
from place to place, but otherwise they don't care about it, which I
can only account for by supposing that they find it a labour more or
less irksome, or that they have never developed their perceptive
faculties, and have no real sympathy with the life of woods and fields
or the spirit of the ancient farms and villages.

Cycling to me is a very easy and pleasant exercise, but it is far more
than that; it is like passing through an endless picture-gallery
filled with masterpieces of form and colour. The roads of England not
only present these delights to the physical sense, but they stir the
imagination with historic visions from the earliest times. There are
the ancient camps, now silent and deserted, which become at the
bidding of fancy peopled with the unkempt and savage British, and
later with their well-disciplined and well-equipped Roman conquerers:
archers and men in armour appear; pilgrims' processions such as we
read of in Chaucer; knights and ladies on their stately steeds. There
are the ghosts of royal progresses, kings and queens, and wonderful
pageantry gorgeous in array; decorously ambling cardinals and abbots
with their trains of servitors; hawking parties with hawks and
attendants; soldiers after Sedgemoor in pursuit of Monmouth's
ill-fated followers; George IV. and his gay courtiers on the Brighton
road; beaux and beauties in their well-appointed carriages bound for
Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham, or Bath; splendid teams with crowded
coaches, and great covered waggons laden with merchandise; the
highwayman at dusk in quest of belated travellers, and companies of
farmers and cattle-dealers riding home from market together for

I often see a vision here in the ancient Forest tracks of a gang of
wild and armed smugglers, and among them still more savage-looking
foreign sailors. They have two or three Forest trucks, made especially
to fit the ruts in the little-used tracks, laden with casks of spirits
and drawn by rough Forest ponies. I can hear the shouts of the drivers
as they urge them forward, and I can see the steaming sides of the
ponies in the misty moonlight of a winter night. The spirits were
landed at Poole or Christchurch, and they are on their way to Burley
where, under the old house I bought with my land, there is still the
cellar, then cleverly concealed, where the casks were stored in safety
from the watchful eyes of the Excise; a quaint old place built of the
local rock.

There is one vision of the roads in the Forest which nobody who saw it
can ever forget: the companies of infantry, the serious officers, the
ruddy-faced men, and the then untried guns of the glorious Seventh
Division, on their route marches, with fife and drum to cheer the way
with the now classic strains of "It's a long, long way to Tipperary."
There are spots where I met them in the autumn of 1914 that I never
pass without feeling that for all time these places are sacred to the
memory of heroes.

Besides the fancied pageantry of the roads there are the natural
objects of the woods, the lanes, and the fields; the blossoming
hawthorn and the wild roses trailing from the hedges, the hares and
rabbits, the birds, the butterflies, and the flowers; sturdy teams
with the time-honoured ploughs and harrows, the sowing of the seed,
the young gleaming corn, the scented hayfields or the golden harvest;
every man at his honourable labour, happy children dashing out of
school; noble timber, hazel coppices, grey old villages; cattle in the
pastures, or enjoying the cool waters of shallow pools or brooks;
sheep in the field or the fold, the shepherd and his dog; apple
blossom, or the ripe and ruddy fruit, bowery hop-gardens, mellow old
cottages, country-folk going to market, fat beasts, cows and calves,
carriers' carts full of gossips.

Pictures, real pictures, everywhere, endless in variety. Steady! go
steady past these woods; see the blue haze of wild hyacinths, the cool
carpet of primroses. Look at the cowslips yellowing that meadow; do
you see the heron standing patiently in the marsh? Look overhead,
watch the hovering hawk; hark! there is the nightingale. Stop a moment
at the bridge; can you see the speckled beauties with their heads
upstream? Thank God for the blue, blue sky! thank God for the glory of
the sun, for the lights and shadows beneath the trees! Thank God for
the live air, the growth, the life of plant and tree, the fragrance
and the beauty! Thank God for rural England!

One can tell the most ancient, apart from the scientifically made
Roman roads, by the way they were worn down from the original level,
especially on hillsides, by the constant and heavy traffic. Every
passing wheel abraded a portion of the surface, and the next rain
carried the _debris_ down the hill, forming in time a deep depression,
between banks at the sides, often many feet deep, and giving the
impression of the track having been purposely dug out to lessen the
gradient. In places where the road became impassable from long use and
wet, deviations on either side were made, so that ten or a dozen
disused tracks can be seen side by side, often extending laterally
quite a long distance from the existing road in unenclosed

A great charm of the bicycle is its noiselessness which, with its
speed, affords peeps of wild creatures under natural conditions.
Cycling on the Cotswolds I came upon two hares at a boxing match; they
were so absorbed that I was able to get quite close, and it was
amusing to watch them standing upright on their hind legs, and
sparring with their little fists like professionals. I have often seen
the pursuit of a rabbit by a persistent stoat; the rabbit has little
chance of escape, as the stoat can follow it underground as well as
over; finally the rabbit appears to be paralyzed with fright, lies
down and makes no further effort. Weasels, which probably make up for
depredations of game by their destruction of rats, often cross the
road, and sometimes whole families may be seen playing by the
roadside. I was shooting in Surrey when I once had an excellent view
of an ermine--the stoat in its winter dress. I did not recognize it
until it was out of sight, but I should not have shot it in any case,
for the ermine is a very rare occurrence in the south of England. I
believe that further north it is not unusual, as is natural where the
light colour would protect it from observation in snow, but as far
south as Surrey this would be a danger, and I should scarcely have
noticed it in the thick undergrowth had it been normal in colour.

We had a squirrel's nest, or "drey," as it is called, near my house
last year, and the squirrels have been about my lawn and the Forest
trees ever since. It was charming, in the summer, to watch them
nibbling the fleshy galls produced on the young oaks by a gall-fly
_(Cynips)_. They chattered to each other all the time, holding the
galls between their fore feet, fragments dropping to the ground
beneath the trees. Squirrels are fond of animal food, and I wondered,
as there was so much apparent waste, whether they were not really
searching for the grubs in the galls. Of late years squirrels have
been scarce here; they were formerly abundant, but their numbers were
much reduced by an epidemic. They seem to be increasing again,
possibly the felling of so many Scots-firs has driven them from their
former haunts into adjoining oak and beech woods, such as those which
almost surround my land.

During lunch in a meadow by the roadside, on a cycling ride, we found
a snake with a toad almost down its throat; the snake disgorged the
toad and escaped, but before we had finished lunch it returned and
repeated the process. This time I carried the toad, none the worse for
the adventure, some distance away, where I hope it was safe. Hedgehogs
are said to eat toads, frogs, beetles, and snakes, as well as the eggs
of game, to which I have already referred (p. 264); it is curious that
the old name "urchin" has been superseded in some places by
"hedgehog," but still survives in the "sea-urchin," and is also used
for a troublesome boy.

It is very interesting, when cycling, to notice the changes in passing
from one geological formation to another, and in railway travelling,
with a geological map, one can quickly observe the transition; the
cuttings give an immediate clue, and the contours of the surface and
the agriculture are further guides. The alteration in the flora is
particularly marked in passing from the Bagshot Sands, for instance,
to the Chalk, or from the Lias Clay to the Lias Limestone or the
Oolite; the lime-loving plants appear on the Chalk and Limestone, and
disappear on the Sands and Clays.

The sunken appearance of the old roads is one of the best proofs of
their antiquity, and one is inclined to wonder at their windings, but
in following the tracks across the Forest moors one gets an insight
into the way roads originated. The ancients simply adopted the line of
least resistance by avoiding hills, boggy places, and the deep parts
of streams, choosing the shallow fordable spots for crossing. The
winding road is, of course, much more interesting and beautiful than
the later straight roads of the Romans, though no doubt many of the
former were improved by the invaders for their more important traffic.
It is to be regretted that the formal lines of telegraph and telephone
poles and wires have vulgarized so many of our beautiful roads, and
destroyed their retired and venerable expression; more especially as
in many places these were erected against the will of the inhabitants,
and under the mistaken idea that the farmer's business is retail, and
that he is prepared to deal in and deliver small quantities of goods
daily, receiving urgent orders and enquiries by telephone.

The villages in the Vale of Evesham and the Cotswolds afford an
excellent illustration of building in harmony with surroundings, and
the suitability of making use of local materials. Thus, in the Vale we
find mellow old brick, has limestone, half timber and thatch; while on
the Cotswolds, oolite freestone and "stone slates" of the same
freestone seem the only suitable material. Where the ugly pink bricks
and blue slates have of late years been introduced, they appear out of
place and contemptible. There is an immense charm about these old
villages of hill and vale, and it is curious to think that Aldington
was an established community with, probably, as many inhabitants as at
the present day, when London and Westminster were divided by green

A story is told of the time before the line to Oxford from
Wolverhampton and Worcester was built, when persons visiting Oxford
from the Vale of Evesham had to travel by road. An old yeoman family,
having decided upon the Church as the vocation for one of the sons,
sent him, in the year 1818, on an old pony, under the protection of an
ancient retainer for his matriculation examination. On their return,
in reply to the question, "Well, did you get the young master
through?" "Oh, yes," he said, "and we could have got the old pony
passed too, if we'd only had enough money!"

Partly as an excuse for a bicycle ride I used often to visit distant
villages where auction sales at farm-houses were proceeding, and
sometimes I came home with old china and other treasures. Wherever
there are old villages with manor houses and long occupied rich land,
wealth formerly accumulated and evidenced itself in well-designed and
well-made furniture, upon which time has had comparatively little
destructive effect. As old fashions were superseded, as oak gave way
to walnut, and walnut to Spanish mahogany, the out-of-date furniture
found its way to the smaller farm-houses and cottages, in which it
descended from generation to generation. Now that the cottages have
been ransacked by dealers and collectors, the treasures have not only
been absorbed by wealthy townspeople, but are finding their way with
those of impoverished landowners and occupiers to the millionaire
mansions on the other side of the Atlantic.

There is no limit to the temptation to collect when once the
fascination of such old things has made itself felt--furniture, china,
earthenware, glass, paintings, brass and pewter become an obsession.
If I had only filled my barns with Jacobean and Stuart oak and walnut,
William and Mary, and Queen Ann marquetry, and Chippendale, Sheraton
and Hepplewhite mahogany, instead of wheat for an unsympathetic
British public, and at the end of my time at Aldington offered a few
of the least interesting specimens for sale by auction, I might still
have carried away a houseful of treasures which would have cost me
less than nothing.

An old friend of mine, who had been collecting for many years, and in
comparison with whom I was a novice, though my enthusiasm long
preceded the fashion of the last twenty-five years, told me that he
once discovered a warehouse in a Cotswold village crammed with
Chippendale, and that the owner, having no sale for it, was glad to
exchange a waggon-load for the same quantity of hay and straw chaff.

Among the more interesting articles which my cycling excursions and
previous pilgrimages on foot produced, I have a charming blue and
white carnation pattern, Worcester china cider mug with the crescent
mark. These mugs are said to have been specially made for the
Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769 at Stratford-on-Avon when Garrick was
present. The date corresponds with the time when the mark was in use,
and establishes the age of the mug as 150 years. The china in my old
neighbourhood was naturally Worcester, Bristol and Salopian, of which
I have many specimens--of the Worcester more especially--ranging from
the earliest days of unmarked pieces through the Dr. Wall period,
Barr, Flight and Barr, down to the later Chamberlain.

An old pair of bellows is a favourite of mine; it is made of pear-tree
wood, decorated with an incised pattern of thistles and foliage,
referring possibly to the Union of England and Scotland in 1707, or as
a Jacobite emblem of a few years later. The carving is surrounded by
the motto:


These old bellows show unmistakable signs of their more than 200 years
of honourable service, and they have literally breathed their last
though still surviving; but it would be sacrilege to renew the
leather, and might disturb the ghosts of generations of old ladies who
blew the dying embers into a ruddy glow when awaiting, in the twilight
of a winter's evening, their good-men's return from the field or the

One of my greatest finds was a pair of Chippendale chairs at a sale at
Mickleton at the foot of the Cotswolds; they belong to the early part
of the Chippendale period, before the Chinese style was abandoned.
That influence appears in incised fretted designs on the legs, and the
frieze below the seats. The seats are covered with the original
tapestry, adding much to the interest, and the backs present examples
of the most spirited carving of the maker. At the sale, when I went to
have a second look, I found two dealers sitting on them and chatting
quite casually; the intention was evidently to prevent possible
purchasers from noticing them, and more especially to hide the
tapestry coverings. The value of the chairs immediately rose in my
estimation, and I increased the limit which I had given to a bidder on
my behalf, so that I made sure of buying them. The old chairs looked
very shabby when they came out into the light of day, and they fell to
my representative's bid amid roars of laughter from the rustic crowd.
What a price for "them two old cheers"! they "never heard talk of such
a job!" It would surprise them to know that I have been offered five
times what they then cost.

My wife has had to do with many parochial committees from time to
time, and I have often trembled for my Chippendale chairs when these
meetings, accompanied by tea, have been held at my house, for it is
not everybody who regards them with the reverence due to their
external beauty and true inwardness, or who recognizes in them the

"Tea-cup times of hood and hoop,
Or while the patch was worn."

A very successful afternoon was one I spent at a sale at North
Littleton. I remember the beautiful spring day, and the old
weather-worn grey house in an orchard of immense pear-trees covered
with sheets of snowy blossom. I secured a Jacobean elm chest with
well-carved panels, a Jacobean oak chest of drawers on a curious
stand, a complete tea set of Staffordshire ware, including twelve cups
and saucers, teapot, and other pieces, with Chinese decoration; four
Nankin blue handleless tea-cups, a Delft plate, and a Battersea enamel
patch-box. My bill was a very moderate one, but the executor who had
the matter of the sale in hand was well pleased that these old family
relics had passed into the possession of someone who would value them,
and not to careless and indifferent neighbours, and was more than
satisfied with the amount realized. Next morning, as a token of his
satisfaction, he brought me a charming old brass Dutch tobacco box,
with an oil painting inside the lid, of a smoker enjoying a pipe.

I have seen some amusing incidents at sales of household goods in
remote places; incredulous smiles as to the possibility of the
usefulness of anything in the shape of a bath generally greeted the
appearance of such an article, and on one of these occasions an
ancient, with great gravity, and as an apology for its existence,
remarked that it was "A very good thing for an invalid!" I am reminded
thereby of an old-fashioned hunting man in Surrey, who was astonished
to hear from a friend of mine that he enjoyed a cold bath every
morning. He "didn't think," he said, "that cold water was at all a
good thing--_next to the skin_!"



"Our echoes roll from soul to soul."
--_The Princess_.

Compulsory education has eliminated many of the old words and phrases
formerly in general use in Worcestershire, and is still striving to
substitute a more "genteel," but not always more correct, and a much
less picturesque, form of speech. When I first went to Aldington I
found it difficult to understand the dialect, but I soon got
accustomed to it, and used it myself in speaking to the villagers.
Farrar used to tell us at school, in one of the resounding phrases of
which he was rather fond, that "All phonetic corruption is due to
muscular effeminacy," which accounts for some of the words in use, but
does not alter the fact that many so-called corrupt words are more
correct than the modern accepted form.

It is difficult to convey the peculiar intonation of the
Worcestershire villager's voice, and the _ipsissima verba_ I have
given in my anecdotes lose a good deal in reading by anyone
unacquainted with their method. Each sentence is uttered in a rising
scale with a drop on the last few words, forming, as a whole, a not
unmusical rhythmical drawl. As instances of "muscular effeminacy," two
fields of mine, where flax was formerly grown, went by the name of
"Pax grounds"; the words "rivet" and "vine," were rendered "ribet" and
"bine." "March," a boundary, became "Marsh," so that
Moreton-on-the-March became, most unjustly, "Moreton-in-the-Marsh."
"Do out," was "dout"; "pound," was "pun"; "starved," starred. The
Saxon plural is still in use: "housen" for houses, "flen" for fleas;
and I noticed, with pleasure, that a school inspector did not correct
the children for using the ancient form. Gilbert White, who died in
1793, writes in the section of his book devoted to the Antiquities of
Selborne, that "Within the author's memory the Saxon plurals, _housen_
and _peason_," were in common use. So that Selborne more than a
hundred years ago had, in that particular at any rate, advanced to a
stage of dialect which in Worcestershire is still not fully
established. Certain words beginning with "h" seem a difficulty; a "y"
is sometimes prefixed, and the "h" omitted. Thus height becomes
"yacth," as nearly as I can spell it, and herring is "yerring." "N" is
an ill-treated letter sometimes, when it begins a word; nettles are
always "ettles," but when not wanted, and two consecutive words run
easier, it is added, as in "osier nait" for osier ait.

The word "charm," from the Anglo-Saxon _cyrm_, is used both in
Worcestershire and Hampshire for a continuous noise, such as the
cawing of nesting rooks, or the hum of swarming bees. Similarly, a
witch's incantation--probably in monotone--is a charm, and then comes
to mean the object given by a witch to an applicant. "Charming" and
"bewitching" thus both proclaim their origins, but have now acquired a
totally different signification.

There are an immense number of curious words and phrases in everyday
use, and they were collected by Mr. A. Porson, M.A., who published a
very interesting list with explanatory notes in 1875, under the title
of _Notes of Quaint Words and Sayings in the Dialect of South
Worcestershire_. I append a list of the local archaic words and
phrases which can also be found in Shakespeare's Plays. This list was
compiled by me some years ago, and appeared in the "Notes and Queries"
column of the _Evesham Journal_; I think all are still to be heard in
Evesham and the villages in that corner of Worcestershire.

SHIP--sheep; cf. Shipton, Shipston, etc.; _Two Gentlemen of Verona_,
Act I., Scene 1; _Comedy of Errors_, Act IV., Scene 1.

FALSING--the present participle of the verb "to false"; _Comedy of
Errors_, Act II., Scene 2; _Cymbeline_, Act II., Scene 3.

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