The athletic Goaters; some moving poetry; a new butterfly on St. Catherine’s Hill; a snake bite; a hornet sting; an Exhibition; two birthdays and the hurt of Bee Orchids.
Every evening, Gran describes the sunset seen from The Ridge, often in great detail, and when the sky is cloudy, she invariably writes, “sunset obscured”. On May 5th 1949 though, she misses it entirely:
…because I attended a concert given by a local troop of Girl Guides, of which Jane is a member. It was an excellent show and the spirit of friendliness increased by the presence of five members of a Polish Guide movement. It was almost dark when it was over.
A couple of days later she writes:
Having promised weeks ago to do something for Jane’s autograph album but having lacked both the will and the inspiration to make a start, I found both this afternoon and I think that the spirit of a greater artist must have guided my hand for I produced something of which I am not normally capable. I went up Kingsway first to make a sketch of a particularly attractive lone Pine tree and used this as the basis for Jane’s picture, setting the tree high up on a hill at sunset. Quite effective!
On May 12th:
I spent a most agreeable afternoon going round a very beautiful garden belonging to a friend of mine, still known to me as Miss Baring [of the Merchant Banking family, the bank collapsing in 1995 owing to the activities of rogue trader Nick Leeson], though she was married just over a year ago. Her garden is a dream… among the smaller flowers of great charm and unusual beauty I think the delicate pink Lilies-of-the-Valley surprised me the most, as I had never thought of these old friends as anything but white. My friend very kindly gave me some, both roots and flowers, so I hope to establish them in my own garden. Groups of fine tulips were another attraction and one gem, a lovely flame colour was, to our minds, insulted by the ridiculous name of “Good Gracious”.
After dusk, Barry and Jock went for a walk by Hiltingbury Lake, a considerable expanse of which is covered by Water Crowfoot and looking very beautiful. Bats were flying about… A Woodcock flew over uttering its strange “growling” cry.
Today is Jane’s fifteenth birthday. It does not seem possible that it is so long since I first welcomed my baby girl – now on the threshold of early woman-hood.
And Gran is moved (as she has been several times in recent months) to fashion a poem to express her feelings, referring to her daughter as “her flower”. The second verse refers, I think, to a throat operation that the young Jane needed, leaving a large scar, and which must have caused Gran (and her father, no doubt) great anguish:
Soon, so soon, the cruel hand of unkind fate
Marred the perfection of my flower, yet she grew apace,
As the unfolding bud when the injuries abate.
A child of beauty, charm and natural grace,
And, even now, unspoiled by any childish vanity
A woman growing.
The day is spent by Barry and Jock on St Catherine’s Hill where they:
…made a startling discovery! A colony of Marsh Fritillaries! For at least thirteen years Barry has scoured St Catherine’s for “bugs” and flowers (and I have for much longer than this) but never before have we seen these butterflies in this locality…it seems incredible that a whole colony should suddenly put in an appearance this year.
Marsh Fritillary is mentioned again a few days later, being one of the butterfly species searched for and found, at Hod Hill, near Blandford, in Dorset.
Dad (Barry) was one of a group of six entomologists who took part in this little expedition, two of whom were his friends Hugh and Peter Robinson, of “Robinson Trap” fame. Eleven days later, on May 25th, Gran adds something to the story of their day at Blandford, concerning Hugh:
We heard today of a most unusual and lucky case of snakebite. Barry’s entomologist friend, when he took the party to Hod Hill, slipped and fell, thinking at the time that in so doing he had pricked his wrist. Next day, however, it was very swollen, with reddish rings around his arm as far as the elbow. By the following day the inflammation had reached the shoulder and chest and our friend hastened to the doctor. To use Hugh’s own expression, the doctor “almost crawled up the wall” in his amazement and said that it was a snake bite and only Hugh’s tremendous strength had saved him as the worst was then over. What luck! Hugh must have put his hand on the Adder as he fell, for they seldom strike if only approached.
This incident, Dad tells me, was referred to ever after as being “stung by a snake”. Gran continues:
Talking of such, I found a Hornet in my room today, rather sluggish, and I think it was possibly responsible for a very unpleasant sting I received last Thursday. At the time, I thought my skirt, rather rough tweed, was prickly but I found I had been stung soon afterwards, though I did not see the Hornet that day. But the sting was bad, above the knee and for nearly three days the swelling and pain extended from knee to groin and even after it had diminished again, the leg felt bruised for a day or two.
On May 19th, Gran says, “And now I think I may be forgiven if my maternal pride insists upon a digression from Natural History”. I wish she would digress a little more often! She writes:
This afternoon I went to Winchester to see the Athletic Sports at Peter Symonds’ School. This is Barry’s last term at Peter Symonds’ School and my pleasure and satisfaction knew no bounds when he won no less than three events in the sports today and was second in two. He also helped his House, Northbrook, to carry off two cups and to tie for first place in two other events. Barry himself won the Cricket Ball, 440 Yards race, and the Long Jump – the latter with a jump of 18ft 1in. He was second in the Mile and the Open Cross Country. He was Victor Ludorum this year and won the Open Championship Challenge Cup. I think my pride in Barry’s final flourish in the School sports is fully justified.
On May 21st, Gran cycles to Lyndhurst to join the Southampton Natural History Society in a field meeting at Church Place Inclosure at Ashurst. “There was much to be seen and heard”, she writes, “though I did not find anything unusual except Viola lactea, an uncommon plant of heaths and acid soils, which I had not seen before”. The most prevalent butterfly was the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary.
Gran, patriotic as ever, notes three days later that it is Empire Day and writes romantically, as she so often does, of her beloved England, and on the 26th:
Today is the eighty-second birthday of that grand and gallant figure, Queen Mary, whose courageous meeting of troubles that would have crushed a lesser character commands my most loyal and heartfelt admiration. I wish that I possessed a more worthy pen!
With which she writes another poem, concluding:
And so, on bended knee or with hat in hand,
Let us salute this grand old lady of our land.
There are more school sports on the 27th and Gran goes to Winchester:
Jane’s school sports took place this afternoon. She secured two second places and one third. A creditable performance, I think, since to reach the finals at all, the girls have to compete with between two and three hundred girls. I managed to win the parents’ race for the second time and was rewarded with a bunch of flowers – pink cornflowers – the nicest prize I could win.
On the way in to Winchester that day, Gran had travelled via the bye-pass, writing later that, “I hate the ugly gash in the countryside which exposes the chalk so hideously”. I’m sure that had Gran been much younger in the early 1990s, she would have joined the Twyford Down protests as the M3 was carved through her beloved chalk!
June begins cold, wet and windy, Gran, as ever, noting the minimum and maximum temperatures of the day and describing the birds and insects found in the garden. All the usual summer migrant birds have been noted and there appears, as yet, to be no diminution in their local populations caused by the small developments and habitat losses locally. She sees a Pine Hawk-moth on the way home from the Park Road garden and notes that a male Lime Hawk has emerged from the breeding cage:
This latter is now clinging to a picture here in the room as I write and Barry, who has gone to see the late Mr Fasnidge’s collection of micros, has instructed me to let it go “when the birds have gone to sleep”.
This she does at 9.55 pm:
…and after vigorously vibrating his wings for about ten minutes, he “taxied” up the wall for a few inches and then took off and rapidly disappeared into the dusk… one of God’s most beautiful creations.
On June 4th:
I recorded the evening birdsong for the Bird Research Station at Glanton, Northumberland and found it most absorbing. The Great Tit was the first to cease calling after sunset, at 8.04 pm, and Robins last to sing at 9.50.
Gran notes the times of final calls and songs of the common species within earshot of The Ridge, including the last Cuckoo call at 9.15. The crepuscular-singing Nightjar commenced “churring” fifteen minutes later, and she also notes that a pair of Turtle Doves flew over towards Cranbury – an event of extreme improbability today, this species apparently being on the verge of extiction as a breeding bird in the UK.
And as dusk falls:
Barry came home from Portsmouth just as the birds were ceasing their songs. He had won the 880 Yards Hampshire County Championship (Junior). What a lot of pleasure I find in the doings of my children…!
She is up again at 3.30 next morning to “… record in detail the dawn chorus for the Research Station”. The songs of twenty-one species are noted in order of their commencement, beginning with Robin, including Nightingale, Cuckoo and Nightjar, and ending with Jackdaw, and “The cocks were crowing all around by 4 o’clock, and rabbits were running down the road at 4.15.” Hiltingbury Road is a very different place today!
Later, Gran writes:
Several times today whole families of birds have been into the garden for food. I put out some cake etc., that I found, very ancient, which Barry had turned out of his knapsack before leaving at 8 am for the Isle of Wight. Goodness knows how long it had been in there! That is the worst of him – he gets so engrossed that he forgets to finish his food, and then arrives home so full of excitement that he forgets to turn out what is left!
A couple of days later, there is more on Dad:
Great excitement today, making it a day that I shall long remember and though a digression from nature notes, it has nevertheless, a great deal to do with our life-long association with nature. Barry heard today that he has been awarded a Scholarship [more accurately an Exhibition] to Southampton University [then University College, Southampton] where he will study for his Degree in Botany. This is the realization of all my hopes since Barry was about six years old and already showing such an aptitude for Natural History. It is worth all and more of the sacrifices I have so gladly made, and I feel that I have done the best of which I am capable for him and the rest is up to him. He will not fail.
But Dad adds wryly, “Could have done better”! June 7th was my Mum’s (Jock’s) birthday:
Today is Jock’s eighteenth birthday and she was able to obtain leave for it so she has been with Barry all day and we were invited to tea to celebrate the event. They were supremely happy and I think she is a most lovable person.
She walks in beauty ‘neath the spreading trees,
Fresh and clear as breath of light Spring breeze.
Tall she is, with dark and curly hair,
Unspoilt and natural, an English girl so fair,
Bright as a garland of fragrant flowers
Bedewed with the sparkle of Summer showers.
And in her frank and ardent gaze I read
The love she fully gives, and it will breed
An equal love within the heart of him
Who worships her. As shadows dim
Creep through the woods, I humbly pray
That their life’s pathway never shall be grey,
But full of sunshine, happiness and health
In God’s fair world, for this is Life’s true wealth.
On the 8th, Gran works in the Park Road garden, where she releases a Greenfinch, trapped underneath a strawberry net, but she is laid low by a splitting headache in the evening. She is recovered next morning though, the day becoming the hottest since Easter Sunday, and she searches for orchids on Compton Down. She finds three species, but is more thrilled to find her first ever Stone Curlew, which she watches flying across the valley below her, calling its plaintive call and showing its characteristic white wing bars.
With all her previous visits to the downs, where this species was regularly present in summer in those days, I’m surprised that this is her first. She ends her entry for the day with:
My room is full of the scent of Fragrant Orchids as I write, for I have put a few with Sainfoin, Ox-eye Daisies, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Hoary Plantain, one Bee Orchis and some grasses into Adrian’s little bowl tonight. It is three years ago this month that I sent him the first Bee Orchis he had ever seen and I hoped to have shown him where they grow. They will never cease to hurt me, though their dainty beauty fills me with rapture.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 20)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 21)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 22)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 23)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 24)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 25)