Pet Jackdaws; the start of the Hiltingbury woodland clearance; a lot of orchids; the first Glow-worm for years; angry caterpillars; the Felon’s Grave and beloved Winchester Cathedral.
Gran writes on June 2nd 1948 (at a time, of course, before the introduced Grey Squirrel became such a confounded nuisance, and people’s attitude to it changed:
Cycling along a quiet lane I was startled when a Grey Squirrel leapt off a post almost into my lap, but my surprise was nothing compared to his. He lost his head completely, tried to regain the post but instead plunged into the wire netting beneath it, where he struggled desperately to get through. How I wish the little wild creatures knew that I would never hurt them!
A week later:
Barry saw a baby Jackdaw on the islet in Cranbury Lake and it seemed afraid to fly ashore. He waded in for it and found it wet and cold. After drying and warming it inside his coat, he was tempted to bring it home for a pet as it was so friendly but he wisely refrained and released it. We have had two Jackdaws, each reared by hand and very tame, but we lost both tragically and we get so fond of them that the loss is too great.
Concerning one of these much-loved birds, Dad tells me, “Some years ago, I had taken a baby Jackdaw from its nest in Cranbury Park; at first we had to force feed it with a fountain-pen filler, but it soon adopted me as its surrogate parent and came at once to be fed with solid food. By day it flew free in the garden, but at night it returned of its own accord to the garage to roost. Whenever I went out on foot or on my bike, “Jack” had to be shut in the garage until I was out of sight before being released again. Cycling home up the nearby hill, I had only to call “Jack!” once or twice and he would come down the road to meet me, and settle on the handlebars”.
On June 10th:
There seems to be great deal of tree-felling going on all over the countryside, even in gardens the owners seem to be indulging in a positive orgy of destruction, wanton and unnecessary, I think.
And she endorses the words of Richard Perry who writes in his book, At the Turn of the Tide: – “I live in an age that has forgotten its birthright. Never before have men had so little interest in their own land. We are breeding a nation of urbanites, whose cheap, artificial pleasures are found in towns; to whom the country is virgin land to exploit for money…”
There is a wasps’ nest in the garden next door and they propose to get rid of it with creosote. I hope I do not run into the infuriated occupants!
And later that day, on her bicycle to Farley Mount:
Passing through Hursley my attention was immediately attracted by a field which looked as though a mighty hand had laid down a gigantic Persian carpet of rich scarlet and green hues. Yes! You have guessed it! Poppies in a field of growing corn, – undisciplined weeds, no doubt, but things of beauty all the same.
A Brown Rustic moth came to sugar tonight and a Glow-worm was in the front garden – the first I have seen here for years, though there were several about the garden when we came here twenty years ago, when the ground was undeveloped.
Gran makes several trips to her beloved chalk areas during June, looking for many flower species but particularly for orchids, for which she has a clear passion, several times writing that when she spies one, especially Bee or Greater Butterfly, her breathing stops for a couple of seconds and she is filled with ecstasy.
This may seem a little over-emotional but I myself remember my own response on seeing my first Lizard Orchid (rare and particularly weird-looking) after several years of a powerful desire to see it, and several failed trips to locate a small colony found by Gran along the dismantled railway line at Downton. This was on the Devil’s Dyke across Newmarket Racecourse. I was alone but involuntarily let out a cry – and probably stopped breathing for a second or two as well!
As an example of “A truly delightful afternoon and one which filled me with a quiet ecstasy and thankfulness for all God’s wonders which are mine for the seeking”, Gran writes:
Whitethroats were singing in the hedges along the lane leading up to the downs along the Petersfield Road – the downs which today yielded no less than five species of Orchids, including my favourite, Ophrys apifera (Bee Orchis). The others were the rare Aceras anthropophora (Man Orchis), rather past its best, but recognizable beyond doubt, Habenaria conopsea (Fragrant), Orchis maculata (Spotted) [this would have been what is now called Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) ] and Listera ovata (Common Twayblade).
She muses on June 18th:
Today, larks were in high spirits along the lane to Eastleigh. Do birds vary their songs according to their feelings or do we only put our own interpretation upon them? They do sing solely as their expression of appreciation of life, I suppose, but who can deny that the Lark and the Blackbird are joyful, for instance, and the Nightingale pleading, the Robin a little sad and questioning? The Wren positively bursts into melody, seemingly for pure gladness. And the Brown Owl, too, seems to plead wistfully, but the Barn Owl shouts defiance! Ah well! Maybe that is only how I hear them.
Well Gran, I think we would agree that each type of song does elicit certain emotions in us but I’m sure the birds are just saying “this is my place – buzz off” or “ what do you reckon – am I worth mating with?”
Corn Cockle is in flower in this district – such an attractive flower, and though not uncommon, one that I personally, have not frequently seen.
The seeds of Corn Cockle are toxic, and seed-cleaning techniques now are such that the plant is almost extinct as an arable weed. I certainly have never seen it except as a product of deliberately sown mixes of arable weed seeds for ornamental purposes. It’s a lovely thing.
What seems like a constant stream of many moth species are emerging from the breeding cages over this part of the summer. Rearing adult insects from eggs laid by gravid females netted on the wing, or attracted to “sugar” or mercury vapour light; or from larvae and pupae searched for and found in appropriate habitats, takes much dedication and quite a bit of knowledge and skill. The Goaters are clearly good at it, and Gran notes on June 19th:
Barry saw a Pine Hawk moth resting on a telegraph pole on Hut Hill. These beautiful moths seem to be definitely on the increase, at any rate in Hampshire, for we are now quite blasé when we see one, though any Hawk-moth always stirs me greatly. It used to be a great event to see this species, but since we bred nearly a hundred, two years ago, from the eggs, they seem to occur far more frequently.
And continuing with moths:
The caterpillars of the Mullein Moth are again feeding on Verbascum thapsus (Great Mullein) in the Park Road garden and are very variable in size. I brought three of the largest home – they are the most ill-tempered caterpillars I have ever handled, throwing themselves about, rolling and twisting immediately they are touched. A Striped Lychnis moth and another Pebble Prominent emerged from the breeding cage today…
Two days later:
It was good to read today that the bells of St Mary’s Church in Southampton were restored and rededicated recently. The mother church was destroyed by bombs in 1940, and is still in ruins but the restoration of the bells is the first step towards rebuilding. Southampton is still a pitiful sight but the brave wild flowers such as Rosebay Willowherb , Oxford Ragwort and such have seeded among the sad ruins and are a cheering reminder of God’s presence in spite of man’s madness.
On June 24th, Gran tells us that:
Atropa belladonna (Deadly Nightshade) is in bloom at Farley Mount now, an important herb for medicinal purposes. On account of its dangerously poisonous properties, most of the old herbalists were afraid of it. Gerard wrote, “ Banish it from your gardens for it bringeth any that have eaten thereof into a dead sleep wherein many have died”.
Farley Mount is now a Country Park, where large numbers of people are encouraged to park, walk, picnic and walk dogs. I fear that in such a place, a truly deadly plant such as this nightshade may have been deliberately eradicated for public safety reasons.
On the evening of that day, Gran finds herself on Pepperbox Hill in Wiltshire, probably with “Brother”, again looking for plants in general and orchids in particular. Among others, Fragrant Orchid in various colours, and Frog and Pyramidal Orchid are found but there is no mention on this visit of Burnt-tip Orchid, for which this site was particularly well-known some years ago.
On the way home they stop at Baddesley, and she recounts this:
At Baddesley we stopped to see an interesting tombstone in the churchyard. It is called the felon’s grave and it is that of one Charles Smith, who was executed at Winchester on March 23rd 1822, for the attempted murder of a gamekeeper, Robert Snelgrove, who had intercepted him whilst poaching on the estate of Lord Viscount Palmerston. He was found in Hough Coppice and, when stopped, fired his gun at close quarters to Snelgrove. In 1822 attempted murder was a capital crime.
To Winchester [Cathedral] this afternoon to attend Evensong, this being St Peter’s Day, when all the scholars of Peter Symonds’ School attend in accordance with the wishes of the School’s Founder and Benefactor.
And Gran quotes in full his Will, dated April 20th 1586 in which he demands that each St Peter’s Day, for ever, “the poor men and children of this hospital shall go in Solemn Order to the Great Church in the City of Winchester and there in the chancel shall hear Divine Service of Evening”. They should have access to the high seats of the chancel and have flowers laid before them, and the Mayor and other elders of the City, dressed in their best apparel, should accompany these poor at Evensong. Furthermore, money will be available to clothe the poor men and children of the hospital appropriately – gowns of crimson grograyne, and crimson silk hats, silver chains about their necks, and the children to have caps of crimson satin.
Gran writes of her experience:
It is a most impressive scene and the sight of so many boys of all ages from ten to eighteen – England’s future hope – gives me a strange feeling of pride and tears together. And the vastness and beauty of this great Cathedral, which had stood through centuries of strife and unrest, undisturbed in its grey dignity and culture, fills me with humility and a great pride and thankfulness for the solidarity and endurance of the English Church.
Depression seems to haunt Gran around this time; the weather is often oppressive, with frequent thunderstorms and still, foreboding nights. She writes:
Too wet this afternoon to venture far, but the opposite woods offered sanctuary among the dripping trees and balm for a drooping spirit among the flowers and chatter of birds.
She looks for, and finds, Lesser Skullcap and several other flowers, including Bog Pimpernel along the edge of an asphalt road “laid down by the army authorities during the war”.
“The American Army huts”, she says:
… now demolished, have left hideous gashes in the woods but, except where the concrete bases make it impossible, nature has done her best to cover this desecration and great clumps of Rosebay Willowherb are flowering among the relics…
The removal of local trees, each one well-known to Gran, continues apace, and she sadly notes on July 7th that:
There is tree-felling going on in a part of our opposite woods, not really ours, of course, only by adoption, for we have walked freely among them for the last twenty years. But now they are being bought in lots, not, alas, to preserve them as I would like to do, but to tear them to pieces, uproot the lovely trees and “improve” them with set-out rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs.
And she continues in this vein for two more pages, bemoaning the march of “so-called progress” and the conceit of Man.
The next day gives her much greater pleasure:
This evening, a wet meadow along the Baddesley Road proved most interesting and exciting. There was an enormous number of various wild flowers, several fresh for this year, but by far the most thrilling was a new find for me, Epipactis palustris (Marsh Helleborine). It is a dainty, delightful plant of the Orchid family… I felt the usual ecstasy… as I saw the first one and spoke aloud in my excitement although I was quite alone.
This was the meadow later christened “Beattie’s Field” by the Goater family, mentioned earlier in this Series and now better known as the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Flexford Reserve. Gran goes on to list the array of wetland and other plant species she finds, and vows to visit again to list all the species she can find there.
On July 10th, concerning her daughter and another visit to Winchester Cathedral:
Jane was confirmed today by the Bishop of Southampton in Winchester Cathedral and the service was most beautiful and impressive and the children lovely. The setting is so perfect, the magnificent alter screen and the carvings and tapestried hassocks in such wonderful combinations of colours – I have seen it all so often, yet I always feel so insignificant and awed by its splendour and beauty. And the organ rolling out brings tears to my eyes and a great yearning in my heart. I wonder why?
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 1)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 2)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 3)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 4)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 5)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 6)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 7)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 8)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 9)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 10)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 11)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 12)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 13)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 14)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 15)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 16)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 17)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 18)