More from Beattie’s Field; a visit by Adrian’s mother; a positive outlook on life; tennis again after 15 years; first flower memories; RMS Aquitania; a mother’s thoughts, and Hedgehog gets a kipper.
Gran writes on July 11th 1948, shortly after daughter Jane’s Confirmation:
Another cloudy dawn but fine enough for us to get to Compton Church for Jane’s first Communion. A Wood-Pigeon was softly calling in the opposite wood when I awakened at 6.15 and the Lark was already singing in the nearby field, or rather over what used to be a field, but it is now part of Hillier’s nursery, at 7.15 as we left home. …a Green Woodpecker flew over the church during the service uttering its strident alarm notes. The flowers on the altar were, as usual, beautiful and tastefully arranged.
This afternoon, in spite of rain, I spent an interesting time with some botanists from Bournemouth who wanted to see Pyrola minor [Common Wintergreen] in its natural habitat for the purpose of including it in the Hampshire records.
The plant was found – in flower and in seed, and the group then went to Farley Mount to look for Creeping Bellflower Campanula rapunculoides, but Gran writes that:
…the haunt was very much overgrown and, incidentally, soaking wet and I was unable to locate the plant this year. It was first seen by Barry and me about ten years ago, but it has been more difficult to find of late and three years ago when we found it, someone had been picking it.
Creeping Bellflower is a non-native species in the UK, that is highly invasive in many countries where it has been introduced. It is declining here, where its populations are apparently not very long-lived.
I read in today’s paper that so far this is the coldest July for twenty-nine years and I can well believe it.
Later in the month though, she is recording the highest temperatures ever, in the garden of The Ridge; several days in the 80s Fahrenheit, and 93 degrees on the 26th.
The 12th finds Gran recording more new plant species in Beattie’s Field, at Flexford. She puts up adult Snipe in two places in the marshy ground as she walks, and in each, she finds newly hatched young – “Such pretty little creatures, fluffy, brown and fawn striped plumage with quite long black bills and black legs”.
Gran works in the Park Road garden on the 13th, but her son Barry spends the afternoon at Farley Mount where, Gran notes, he:
…saw a large party of Stone Curlew…and also saw a hen Partridge give the finest exhibition of the broken wing trick that he has ever seen. On his approach the chicks scattered in all directions and the hen set up a tremendous clamour and limped off trailing one wing in the hope of keeping his attention from her young.
July 21st is a windy day:
It was not pleasant, the wind blowing great clouds of dust across Winchester Station as I waited to meet the London train bringing Adrian’s mother on her first visit to Chandler’s Ford. I wonder what she will think of it!
And I wonder what Grampa will think of it! And over the next few days Gran takes Adrian’s mother on a tour of her favourite local haunts; the birch woods opposite The Ridge, Cranbury Park, Farley Mount, Compton Downs, St Catherine’s Hill and Winchester Cathedral. It is an emotional period for both ladies, drawn together by the untimely loss of a loved son and friend, and Gran writes at this time:
A beautiful dawn, sunshine and blue sky following swiftly upon a misty, dew-spangled awakening. The golden beams of sunlight shed a radiance on the dark woods glistening with the early morning dew. And, I thought, so it is with Life – the dark shadows of trouble and sadness are brightened and glorified by the radiant light of a beautiful experience. If we hold tight to these golden threads no bitterness will creep into our souls even in the midst of our greatest sorrow. I have found it so, though it is hard at first, and I pray that I may grow old graciously and with patience and gentleness so that the gently turning wheels of time may give me a face, not hard and embittered by unhappiness and suffering, but peaceful and contented with the fragrant memory of a few wonderful months.
What an uplifting and positive philosophy she had, and lived by! And this is why, during the years I knew her, I had no inkling of her long-standing heartache.
On July 24th there is no mention that Gran plays tennis that day, although she did! She ends her entries for that day, saying:
A Brown Owl was hooting in the Pinewood at dusk and several moths have come to light whilst I have been writing, including a Purple Clay, Gold-tail, and Willow Beauty. A Copper Underwing was at rest on the dart-board in Barry’s room tonight.
It is the following day that Gran mentions tennis:
This afternoon was so glorious and the lure of the open spaces so great that, despite an unwonted stiffness due to playing a tennis match yesterday after a lapse of fifteen years, I cycled to a favourite haunt on the Sparsholt road, hunting for flowers.
There, “in a woodland glade among such flowers as Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Eyebright, Thyme, Centaury, Milkwort and Clover, the warm sun caressing my limbs…”, she writes-up her notes, describing in emotive detail the countryside and sky-scape around her.
And so the summer passes. Many pages are written, describing visits on foot and by bike to the same selection of favoured countryside places. Plants found are recorded, together with birds seen and heard. Many of these latter are species of mixed farmland, much reduced in numbers today: the Turtle Dove, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Grey Partridge and Corn Bunting. Red-backed Shrikes still nest in the scrub on the downs and Skylarks abound. In spite of the changes newly being wrought in the “woods opposite”, there is no hint yet that their Wood Warblers, Tree Pipits, Nightingales, Nightjars or Woodcocks are in decline.
Gran’s light, each night as she writes her diary, attracts many insects into her bedroom through the permanently open window. Moths, lacewings, gnats, crane-flies and beetles, including cockchafers, – all are welcome, and late in July the breeze brings in hundreds of birch seeds, which cover her pillow, causing her to remark how wonderful it is that such beautiful trees with their fissured bark and fine tracery of branches can grow from such small beginnings.
She passes Adrian’s birthday, August 3rd, with bittersweet heartache, sitting alone on Compton Down where, musing on the scene and the sounds of dusk, she writes:
Pigs are squealing now, added to the ducks, and somewhere a dog barks. Bird’s-foot Trefoil is flowering beside me. It is the first flower I can remember. I was still in a pushchair, not quite two years old and it was in Wales. My brother was cramming my baby hands with the little yellow flowers – I could scarcely hold them – it is about forty-two years ago, yet I remember every detail, even the jacket I was wearing. Always have I loved flowers, even when I knew only a few by their common names and now they are my greatest comfort…
The hedgehog continues to make “his” nightly visit to the food that Gran puts out in a saucer. She writes on August 6th:
This morning our Hedgehog was prowling about the garden in search of food. I crept down towards him and discovered him with his head in the remains of a bonfire which had not burned properly. He had found a kipper’s head and was so engrossed that he did not hear my approach and I leaned right over him as he ate, with truly the most appalling manners!… he never became conscious of being watched and I left him to his wallowing!
The next night is blustery and wet, and Gran is disconcerted:
Now it is dark and still, with drips of rain showering off the trees with each gust of wind and a door in the house just tapping dismally though closed. I dislike banging doors and I hate wind blowing through the house rattling doors and windows. Our doors do not fit properly since the “doodlebug” fell during the war, and the slightest wind starts them rattling.
On Compton Down again a few evenings later, travelling there and back by bus, Gran has gathered a “ lovely bunch of flowers”:
…and the bus conductor pointed to Wild Carrot and said, “Don’t you know it’s unlucky to pick that one?” I pointed to Earthnut and Fools’ Parsley and said, ”Why that one any more than these?” He replied, “They’re all the same aren’t they?” I said. “No, they certainly are not, and anyway, how can any flower be unlucky?” I asked him if he was superstitious and if he was afraid to take Hawthorn into the house. He was! How do these absurd ideas begin?
A perfect day, sunny, warm, a slight breeze and the brilliant blue sky dappled and quilted with small white clouds, not enough to banish the sun but just sufficient to complete the beauty of the day. It was just such another, eighteen years ago when Barry was born. Now he is on the threshold of manhood. I wonder what the future holds for him. I thank God most humbly that he is a naturalist, for whatever happens he will always have this to keep him occupied and to give him satisfaction for the soul and food for the mind.
How evocative and poignant is her question and her statement! Every parent must utter a similar question, though unfortunately rather few today can give thanks for a son or daughter interested in natural history. That eighteen-year-old is now nearly eighty-seven; we know what his future held for him, and indeed, his passion did provide him with “satisfaction for the soul and food for the mind”.
What Gran, surprisingly, does not mention on this date is that the closing ceremony of the London Olympics “The Austerity Games” takes place. Dad and “Jock” MacNoe, (my mum-to-be, though they did not know it then), had earlier spent a day at the event, witnessing, amongst other fine performances, that of the “Flying Housewife” the four gold-medal-winning Fanny Blankers-Koen.
Talking of “austerity” – this was the real thing, when everybody was suffering to some extent – not the version spun by today’s politicians, when most of us are unbelievably well-off compared with those living in the years immediately following World War II.
The day after Dad’s birthday, Gran and he spend “a lovely afternoon in the New Forest – Marchwood, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst and Ashurst”. The Cracknore Hard saltmarshes provide her with several relatively unfamiliar coastal plants, and on a nearby roadside there she finds a new species for her – Nitgrass (Gastridium ventricosum). “A most attractive grass”, she writes, “ with soft fluffy heads”. She adds:
Cracknore Hard also provided us with an excellent view of the docks at Southampton, across the water, and the Aquitania looked imposing among the smaller craft.
This fabulous four-stacked Cunard liner had just two more years of service left in her. Dad and Gran return home via Totton as the tide comes in, and Gran relates “an interesting scrap of Totton’s history when she writes-up the day’s events:
The hamlets of Totton, Rumbridge, Hounsdown, Marchwood, Cadnam, Ower, Netley, Woodlands, Winsor and Bartley were all in the Parish of Eling in 1855. The parish is described in the P. O. Directory of that year as “one of the most extensive in the Kingdom, containing a number of hamlets, which, from their extent, and the distance they are situated from each other, would be generally supposed by persons who are unacquainted with the neighbourhood, to be separate parishes”.
Totton, the principal hamlet, contained in those days fifty acres of “excellent salt marsh”, over which the inhabitants enjoyed a right of common run for feed of cattle, at least, from “Hawk Monday till the longest day, when only seven persons are privileged to turn in one horse to feed over the whole.” It was then locked up for a month, the grass divided in to allotments and cut and carried, after which it was again thrown open.
“Blackberrying this morning”, she writes on the 18th:
was a pleasant occupation for I love the woods, the solitude and the silence, in which there is so much to be seen and heard. …the crop is quite good and I found some really luscious fruit in the shade of the brambles. Whitethroats and Nuthatches were chattering all the time, and once I heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker calling.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 19)