The Honeymooners return; 400 Willow Warblers; Crossbills in Chandler’s Ford; three hours of devotion result in humility; the new motor museum; some athletics; Early Spider Orchid, and the Cubs’ knowledge is a bit disappointing.
It’s April 8th 1952. The rain of the last few days clears and Gran writes of Barry and her new daughter-in-law, honeymooning on the Isle of Wight:
I hope Barry and Jock have also enjoyed the same glorious day, but I would like to be the first to hear the Willow Warbler, though I know they will have much to report on their return home. I do not expect many young couples would largely spend their honeymoon watching bird-migration…
Competitive Gran is delighted to hear her highly desired Willow Warbler next day, in a group of small bushes on the edge of a field in Beech Road as she makes her way to work in the Pinewood Gardens, “…that sweet never-to-be-forgotten cascade of trilling notes, which thrills the heart of the nature-lover”, she so rightly adds. And she relates a little more bird news:
An interesting fact concerning Crossbills was brought to my notice today. During the year before last, 1950, they were not only present in Chandler’s Ford, but actually nested and bred young in Dr Brocket’s garden in Lakewood Road, spending much time high up in the pine trees there. He saw only the hen and two juveniles, never once catching sight of the cock bird. But of these former, he obtained some excellent views from his sitting room window, keeping very still and silent, for they came to feed upon the berries of Daphne mezerion, of which they were apparently very fond, since they completely stripped the plants. I wish he had known that we were interested and let us know they were in his garden. Years ago, when Barry was a baby, I once saw two in Brownhill Road but have never seen them since in Chandler’s Ford and have had difficulty in convincing the adult Barry that I ever saw them!
Later, on the newlyweds’ return, we learn that on the 8th Dad did beat Gran to their first Willow Warbler record of the year, he and Jock witnessing an impressive “fall” of Spring migrants on the Island. Gran records Dad’s news:
There was great activity – about four hundred Willow Warblers, one hundred Wheatears, several Blackcaps, twelve Ring Ouzels, three Whitethroats, some Nightingales, Swallows, and Sand Martins and a cock Redstart. These had all gone on the 9th.
Two days later Gran writes:
I went to work today instead of tomorrow as it is Good Friday and I hope to go to the three hours service. Whilst collecting eggs [a regular activity for her in the Pinewood Garden, from where she takes them to the packing station in Eastleigh] I heard both Chiff-chaffs and Willow Warblers…
Other warblers are seen in a tree in the rear garden of The Ridge but they take a bit of identifying, “…because Barry has the binoculars with him”. She says:
Two other birds…were feeding in the same tree…but I could not get a clear view. I went into Barry’s room, to whose window this particular tree is nearer than to mine, and I was delighted to discover that the birds were Blackcaps. Not only was this the first time I had seen this species this year, but it is the first time I have ever seen them in this garden.
Gran leaves home at mid-day to attend “the three hours devotion” at Compton Church and:
…though I always feel unutterably sad, I am always so very glad I have been and return home comforted and strengthened, with a wholesome humility in my heart.
It was quiet and infinitely peaceful in the little church, but seeming wrapped in a profound sorrow, and it was difficult to believe that less than a week ago I had seen Barry and Jock standing before the altar in all the glory of their young love and amid the beauty of their wedding day. Now there were no flowers on the altar, only that pathetic Cross, draped in crepe. The beautiful and moving service was conducted by a visiting clergyman, Mr Earle…
With the new sense of humility and the desire to be worthy of that great love that came to me six years ago, the thought entered my mind that perhaps the forcing-house of a great experience is needed to bring the halting growth of character to full maturity and I know that without the knowledge of Adrian’s love for me and the subsequent discovery of myself through him, I should never have experienced the expansion of mind and spirit which my association with him has given me.
“ A truly wonderful day, absolutely cloudless from beginning to end”, recounts Gran on the 17th:
I just had time to read the thermometer this morning before preparing to catch the 8.30 bus to Southampton en route for Beaulieu and Bucklers Hard with my neighbour, Mrs Freestone.
They travel from Southampton to Hythe, catch the ferry across Southampton Water and board another bus for Beaulieu, via Dibden Purlieu. “At eleven o’clock”, she says:
…we went over Palace House, the home of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, which has recently been opened to the public, and whist I was grateful for the opportunity of seeing all its beauty, it saddened me immeasurably to know that such was necessary in order that he might keep the home which he must love so much.
Gran describes in some detail the “restful”, “tranquil” and “tasteful” furnishings, flowers and grounds of the house, continuing:
A collection of stuffed birds interested me, though I much prefer to see them alive in their natural haunts, but these specimens had all been obtained on the Manor of Beaulieu between 1875 and 1952, by Henry, 1st Lord Montagu, John, 2nd Lord Montagu and Edward, 3rd Lord Montagu. Apart from the many ducks…those exhibited included such rarities as Bittern, Flamingo, Crested Grebe, Fork-tailed Petrel, Razorbill, Spotted Crake, Grey Phalarope and Amhurst Pheasant…
She describes a “lovely portrait of the present Lord Montagu’s mother, Pearl, now the Honourable Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie”, and:
Also on this landing is a very natural picture of Lord Montagu as a child of about nine years. He is at present in the early twenties, and was today in the museum of ancient motor cars, which has been arranged in memory of his father, who was a pioneer of motoring, endeavouring to find room for another specimen. There are some truly amazing examples of old cars here.
The two ladies walk to Bucklers Hard through woods and lanes, recording Spring flowers, including, and I think this is really the main purpose of Gran’s journey, renewing acquaintance with her beloved Pulmonaria longifolia. At Bucklers Hard, they find Gran’s “dream cottage”:
…has evidently been sold, for workmen were busy – a bathroom is being built on and the interior renovated. I hope the new owners are nice and will make its garden beautiful again!
Barry and Jock are due home on the 19th and Gran has Spring-cleaned “Barry’s room” and bought new curtains for it, making it look “less like a batchelor’s pad”, and that evening:
Barry and Jock returned, sunburned and happy from their honeymoon and were delighted with their room. It was good to have them home again, and, though they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves, they were pleased to be here too, and hastened to their beloved Cranbury!
May Day sees Gran back in the New Forest. She cycles, with “my friend, Miss Phelby, and our first objective was Romsey”. From there they make their way to West Wellow, where:
We went into West Wellow Church, in the graveyard of which is the tomb of Florence Nightingale, that courageous woman who, during the Crimea War, sacrificed a life of comfort and ease to revolutionize nursing and bring succour and courage to the wounded and suffering. Resting in one of the windows is a cross made of bullets from the Crimea and, beside it, a framed text, which was hanging in the bedroom of Florence Nightingale in the house in Park Lane, where she died in 1910.
They cycle on towards Landford and thence through Nomansland, Stoney Cross and Emery Down, Beaulieu Road and on to Beaulieu itself, noting birds, including Nightingales and Woodlarks, and recording flowers as they go. “We had tea”, she writes:
…in the Domus Tea Rooms, where we discovered that, after remarking in a somewhat superior fashion, that apparently the residents of the New Forest did not observe or had never heard of Summer Time, our time was an hour ahead! Miss Phelby had inadvertently put her watch to ten o’clock instead of nine this morning, and the six clocks which we had passed were right after all. We asked the waitress in the Domus if their clock was right and then discovered that we were asking for tea at only twenty minutes past three!
On May 3rd Gran is woken by heavy rain and thunder, and rain is still falling when:
Jock, Jane and I went to the Montifiore Sports Ground at Swaythling to see Southampton University Athletic Sports in which we hoped Barry would win the Half-mile cup for the third year in succession. The ground was sodden and made heavy going but at least it had stopped raining…Neither were we disappointed, for Barry not only retained the cup as we hoped, but won the Quarter-mile, and his part in the inter-faculty relay as well. He had previously won the Three-mile Road Race.
Only one record was broken, conditions making it impossible on the track, that of the High Jump, in which U. Eranini, an African student of beautiful physique, cleared five feet eight and a half inches.
I remember, at a time when I was particularly keen on British orchids during the late 1970s, visiting Durleston Head in Dorset, with Gran to look for the Early Spider Orchid, a highly localised species. She did not at that time recount to me her first acquaintance with this lovely plant, but we have it on May 4th:
I experienced a great thrill today when a friend brought me the first Ophrys sphegodes (Early spider Orchid) that I have ever seen. They had been found in large numbers on Dancing Hill, near Swanage, in Dorset, which is one of only three counties in England in which in which this species is found.
Gran despairs on May 11th:
This afternoon I took Paul Vernon, a schoolboy botanist, to Ashley Down in search of one or two special flowers…I was horrified to see at least four cars and several people near the haunt of Hobby and Buzzard, and was not surprised to find that bird life seemed almost non-existent. We found that the Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-Valley) had spread over a wide area of the hillside but the place had been considerably trampled and only a few flowers remained. We saw why, later, as when we were leaving we met a family of seven who had just about as many as they could carry, tied into bundles – in fact, I should think they had stripped every bloom they could find… oh, the greedy vandals! Nobody minds folk gathering moderately, except in the case of great rarities, but to take all like that!
The Spring passes, and is noted, much as any other by Gran. All the usual summer migrant birds are recorded – there are still Red-backed Shrikes on Shawford Down; Nightjars hawk insects along Hiltingbury Road, and Cuckoos abound. A Starling is watched collecting abandoned bus tickets for its nest; the small wood belonging to Otterbourne House, “which has recently been sold and turned into an hotel, is being cleared, which is a pity, since both wild Daffodils and Snowdrops grow there”; Barry frequently runs his moth-trap, and hunts moths far and wide with his friend Clifford Redgrave, and recording by late May, over 290 species in the garden, and also recording huge numbers of Cockchafer beetles this year.
Gran plays tennis regularly at the Pirelli Sports Ground in Eastleigh but is again wondering if she can go on much longer, saying, “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am getting a bit beyond match play. True, it was exceedingly hot on the courts, but I used to revel in the heat and play better in such conditions, but not now”. Ponies with foals are enjoyed in the New Forest, “but no cattle were to be seen owing to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the New Forest area”. Barry and Jock also spend time in the Forest, on their bikes, looking for birds’ nests and moth-hunting. Gran writes of Dad’s tenacity:
After mending one puncture this morning Barry got another as he was riding along Hythe Pier so he rode Jock’s bike from Southampton, pushing his own, and she came home by bus.
Barry reports “an interesting and amusing incident coming home from Winchester”:
In a field along the byepass, a Jackdaw was standing on a cow’s back furiously plucking out hairs with which to line its nest. The cow showed neither discomfort nor resentment at this treatment but Barry said the bird was exerting all its energy to attain its object.
And Gran relates an interesting reptile-related incident on May 10th:
This afternoon I spent gardening at home, after washing my hair, which dried in the sun whilst I was cutting grass and weeding. I was tying daffodil greens when I heard a slight commotion in the road and murmurs of “snake”. I guessed that it was a harmless Slow-worm so dashed to the rescue and found the next-door cat playing with it in the gutter. I picked it up and put it in our garden, and later I found another one curled up on the heather in the back. It remained there, unmoved, for several hours, basking in the sunshine.
Afterwards the four-year old girl from next door came to the fence and told me that she had seen a “low worm” in her garden but that it had crawled right into an ants’ nest, disappearing into it completely. This was confirmed by her mother and I wondered whether the Slow-worm had intentionally done so, and why the ants, which had shown much activity at its intrusion, had not attacked it as I have seen them do with an unwary snake. I should have liked to witness the incident myself.
On May 13th, Jane’s eighteenth birthday, Gran finds it almost impossible to believe “that my small lady-baby has reached such an age already”. But there is no news of any celebration. Next day she takes “…three young Cubs out to take their nature exam for their second star and found it an entertaining experience…”, yet she is disappointed that “…any child of eleven years or older could mistake a Chaffinch for a Thrush or a Pigeon for a Crow”.
Usually the despiser of shopping, Gran surprises us on May 29th:
I spent a pleasant half-hour in a favourite art shop, selecting books for Jock’s twenty-first birthday early next month and another for Jill Harding whose birthday falls on the same day. For Timothy, her twin, I chose some artists’ materials since he has a leaning towards portrait drawing at the moment. But what a shop! So crammed full of everything beautiful that one sighs inwardly at the sight of it.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 26)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 27)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 28)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 29)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 30)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 31)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 32)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 33)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 34)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 35)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 36)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 37)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 38)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 39)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 40)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 41)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 42)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 43)