Mr Sanderson speaks boldly; Hiltingbury is urbanising but the trees are safe; Cranbury Park – little changed in 50 years; a visit to Kew, but some are disappointed; gifts from Switzerland; the Richmond Park Woodchat Shrike; dropping the word “empire”, and Gran finds her first Herb Paris.
Gran writes, as usual during Eastertime, of the deep emotions engendered in her at this period in the Christian calendar, and on Good Friday, April 3rd 1953, she attends a service at Compton that is very much of its time:
I met Mrs Durst as I reached the Church gate and we went in together. As soon as I saw the visiting clergyman’s face I knew that the service would be a good one, for his faith shone on his countenance as a lamp in a dark world. He was the Reverend George Sanderson, from All Saints, Alton and the Service proved to be the most moving and beautiful I have ever attended.
Two sections of the Service impressed Gran particularly profoundly, one of which is précised below.
“Woman, behold thy son”. Mr Sanderson’s approach to this aspect was brave and gallant as well as reverent and sincere for he spoke first to women, then to men and, finally to both together and said that he though it proper, whilst at the foot of the Cross, to examine the matter of sex and to put it in its right place – that is, as something sacred and beautiful, the gift of God for the continuance of the human race, and not the commercialized, rather sordid thing of posters, films, plays and novels, – not something to be hidden away as in Victorian times nor cheapened by vulgar display as in modern days.
Mr Sanderson spoke boldly of those women who have pushed themselves to the front, shouting for equality whilst losing their sense of value, since God created Woman to stand beside and behind her man, to bolster him up and help him, for man without a woman to sustain him is a poor, weak creature, strutting about his little world, like a cockerel, trying to convince himself, and others, what a fine, strong creature he is. These are Mr Sanderson’s remarks, a man’s remarks, not mine! What he had to say about broken marriages and broken homes touched me too closely to be recorded here…
The second section of the Service gives Gran tremendous hope and belief in the resurrection of the soul of her beloved Adrian, whom she is sure will be with her in the Hereafter, and she ends:
I walked up the lane with Mrs Durst and Miss Flint, and, after accepting their kind offer of a cup of tea, I went on up to my favourite place on the Downs, for I wanted a little while, alone in nature’s silences, to collect myself before coming home.
The first Willow Warblers of the year are heard locally on this day, lifting Gran’s spirits further, and there is more good news:
The Town and Country Planning Executive has notified all residents in the Hiltingbury neighbourhood that no trees are to be felled without permission since it is desired to preserve the natural beauty of the district and the trees on each frontage are mentioned specifically – our Oak, for instance. The Yew trees opposite here are also to be preserved! Whilst normally I object in principle to dictatorship, I must admit that I am glad tree-felling in this lovely district is to be controlled.
And below is the letter to William Cecil Goater, confirming the Tree Preservation Order.
Nevertheless, Gran remains unsettled by the local housing developments, writing a few days later:
…I saw a rabbit hopping about in the opposite wood on a burnt patch where the people had burnt parts of a yew tree they had felled on Friday, exposing their half-built red-brick house to our reluctant gaze. I am trusting that when the leaves are on the birch trees opposite here and on our oak tree, the eyesore will be hidden again.
Barry and Jock, leaving the baby with Gran, spend some time together along the River Itchen on March 4th, returning home via Cranbury Park and reporting that the Marsh Marigolds, or Kingcups, are in bloom, Gran adding this in her notes that evening:
It is interesting to recall that these Kingcups were blooming in this particular dell during Charlotte Yonge’s lifetime at Otterbourne, over fifty years ago, for in describing the charms of Cranbury, Miss Yonge wrote, “All the slopes are covered with copse-wood, much of it oak, the tints of which are lovely shades of green in Spring and golden brown in early Autumn. The whole is a place remarkable for masses of blossom. There are giant garlands of white wild cherry above in Spring, and equally white anemones below; by and by an acre of Primroses growing close together, not large, but wonderfully thick, a golden river of King Cup between banks of Dog’s Mercury, later on whole glades of wild Hyacinth, producing a curious effect of blue beneath the budding yellow-green of the young birches with silver stems”. Yes, Cranbury is much as it used to be fifty years ago!
I am constantly being surprised that Gran once had “another life”, which appears to have included activities no longer part of her existence, such as theatre-going, dancing and socialising. She is very late to bed on the 6th because:
I sat up to hear Phyllis Neilson-Terry in a radio version of “Henry of Navarre” – a play in which I saw her parents, Julia Neilson and Fred Terry several times many years ago. The daughter possesses to a large degree the sweet voice of the mother, and I know from her appearances in “Trilby” that she is a beautiful singer.
And her experience of the arts appears to have made her an insightful critic, often commenting sensibly on what she hears on the wireless; as a few days later, remarking on the last wireless broadcast until the Autumn of Tom Jenkins and the Palm Court Orchestra, she says:
It was a beautiful programme but I wish Gladys Ripley, the Contralto, had not sung “Angels Guard Thee”. To my mind it is essentially a man’s song and, after hearing Richard Crooke’s perfect rendering of it, it sounded unconvincing tonight and lost much of its depth of feeling.
Summer migrant birds are returning and being recorded with Gran’s usual glee. And her heart is warmed by the hearing, with a friend, in the garden, of her first Cuckoo of the season on the 7th. This is one of her earliest dates for this bird, it appearing in the district on April 16th, 15thand 13thin the previous three years.
Gran writes that the house is very quiet after Jane’s departure at 9 o’clock for Southampton Docks on the 8th. She is on a fortnight’s school trip to Neuchatel, in Switzerland, travelling via Le Havre and Paris.
Gran travels by coach to Kew Gardens on April 14th, with a group from Chandler’s Ford, which includes her great friends, the Hardings. She has a wonderful day, perhaps, she thinks, a week too early to see Kew at its springtime best, but trying to see everything on offer and writing copious notes about all she encounters. The weather is poor, being particularly cold, but indoors it is warm and Gran glories in the Palm House with its orange lilies from Natal below the palms, and noting how odd it is to see English Sparrows and Blackbirds, “out of habitat” amongst them.
She visits the new conservatory, which was being built at the time of her last visit, and now housing, “all manner of Australian plants, the flowers of which are both dainty in some cases and brilliant in others”. She is fascinated by the contents of the museum, which “was devoted to fruits, nuts, oils, perfumes, poisons and such…”, as well as containing modelled flowers, “by a man named Marchant, which were quite extraordinarily perfect. I think the medium must have been wax”. The Cactus House is impressive, the remarkable plants “arranged with a background of desert painted to give an illusion of distance…” There is much, much more, Gran’s description of the day taking up twelve pages of her journal.
A week later, have tea with the Harding family as usual on a Monday, Gran:
…was amazed to hear that, the Hardings excepted, several of the folk who went to Kew last Tuesday thought the outing a failure and one actually remarked that if that was people’s first visit to Kew she did not suppose they would ever want to go again!! All I can say is, “Where do these people keep their eyes and ears and why, in Heaven’s name, do they join outings to such a place as Kew if they are so utterly incapable of enjoying it?” I would love and enjoy Kew in a blizzard, in the depths of Winter or in blazing heat in the middle of Summer, for the trees alone are a joy…
The Wintergreen plants, in danger of destruction by the local house-building, continue to make Gran anxious. She records that:
Brigadier Venning came over later and, after tea, we went to rescue some Pyrola minor from the threatened oakwoods. He took some back to Butts Ash with him and hopes to introduce it into some part or parts of the New Forest where it may thrive unmolested. It is a pity for this Southern rarity to be lost to Hampshire and, as far as we know, this area is its only station in the County.
In fact, this litle flower occurs in a number of places in the county, mainly in north-east Hampshire, but it is, nevertheless, a rare plant. Dad has seen it in Woolmer Forest but there is no news of the success or otherwise of any introduction to the New Forest.
A ramble with other naturalists on St Catherine’s Hill on April 19th produces a new fungus for Gran: the Morel, which, she writes, “is edible, though I think it looks most unappetizing. It has, however, been appreciated as food since classical times and was formerly much eaten in this country”. She collects seven Marsh Fritillary butterfly caterpillars to rear, and writes a little of the history of St Catherine’s Hill, including that, “…it became the playground of Winchester College and football was played upon the summit until 1860 and cricket until 1866”.
On the evening of April 21st, Gran is disturbed, in a nice way, having just retired to bed in order to write, when:
…the entire Fowler family called. They had been to Harwich to meet Jill, who was returning from three months training at a florists in Copenhagen, and, a delightful surprise – she had brought me some truly wonderful Anemones straight from Denmark…they are really most beautiful. What a nice thought for a child – or almost a child, for Jill is eighteen – a few months younger than Jane. Jane, incidentally, must be just leaving Le Havre, for she is due in Southampton at six o’clock tomorrow morning.
And indeed, next morning:
Bright and fresh this morning, and, just as I was going downstairs, Jane burst in, full of excitement and looking very fit after her stay in Switzerland. She had, however, lost her voice, as had all the other girls who had been with her, and this made it very difficult for her to tell all she wished but she had much to show as well and that helped.
She had brought gifts for as many as possible and these included an enchanting musical box for Julian, made like a little Swiss chalet and playing a gay tune. She brought nylons and a silk scarf for me and chocolates, butter and cheese for the family to share. We had breakfast together and then the more usual day began.
Having made her annual Spring visit by bicycle to Beaulieu and the New Forest to see the Hampshire and Dorset speciality, Narrow-leaved Lungwort, Gran is delighted to see that her “dream cottage” at Buckler’s Hard, is now restored and occupied, and with a “beautifully set out garden”, and will soon be a picture.
And she is soon off on another natural history jaunt, which she describes as “one of the fullest and most enjoyable days that I have ever spent”. It is the General Meeting of the British Naturalist’s Association, also involving a field trip to the sandy and heathy habitats of Surrey, and some slide shows and laboratory work in the Natural History Museum at Haslemere, where the meeting was held,
Whilst looking at a series of paintings of wild orchids in the museum, mainly from the Isle of Wight and painted between 1933 and 1939 by the late Walter Pearce, who studied under Ruskin, Gran is met by her brother:
…who told me with great excitement that for the past three days he had seen the rare Woodchat Shrike in Richmond Park. It was there again this morning. There are only very few records of the appearance of this bird in Britain and Brother said that most of the members of the London Natural History Society had been to Richmond Park to see it.
Norris’s sighting of the Richmond Park Woodchat went down in the annals of the family’s great natural history events. It was probably the rarest bird he ever saw. In those days, rare bird news travelled slowly, if at all, and this primarily Mediterranean Shrike would have been a once in a lifetime bird for most birdwatchers. It is, in fact, a rare but regular vagrant to Britain in small numbers and a keen birder could probably see two or three in a year with a bit of effort. Nevertheless, because of Norris’s sighting, Woodchat Shrike remained something of a holy grail for me until I saw my first, in Suffolk, in my late teens.
One of the interesting outcomes of the B.E.N.A. general meeting is a change in its title:
In keeping with the present-day outlook it had been decided to omit the word “Empire” from the Association’s name and to call it simply the “British Naturalists’ Association”, while retaining the initials B.E.N.A. which consists of the initial letters of its Latin motto, “Beatus Est Naturae Amor”.
Returning home by car with other members of the Association, they stop near Langrish to explore the flora of a beech hangar and there they find a number of flowers new to Gran’s Spring list, including one new to her Life List, the “long wished-for Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)”, one of which, Gran writes, was “a specimen with six leaves instead of four”.
Gran records Goldfinches on an almost daily basis and she does again, on April 28th, writing:
A Goldfinch was singing in my Pyrus tree whilst I was dressing early, and I have seen and heard several others today. These delightful little songsters are particularly numerous this year, and have been increasing consistently for several years past – a direct result, no doubt, of the Protection of Wild Birds Act, for these birds used to be much persecuted by fanciers who trapped them and caged them for their beautiful song. How very much sweeter it is when heard in the freedom of the trees.
- 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)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 44)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 45)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 46)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 47)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Joournal (Part-48)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 49)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 50)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 51)
- Forty Years in Chandler’s Ford – a Journal (Part 52)
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