She never met William Rufus, but remembered House Sparrows in numbers, a doodlebug lifting her roof and could hear the ocean liners as they left the docks.
Gran spends August 4th 1947, at Romsey Horse Show. There is no mention of how she got there nor of her company, but they found Broadlands, where the show was held, delightful when they walked around it during the interval. And they made a visit to Pepperbox Hill that day too, returning “towards dusk as the sparrows were chattering in the hedges and the crickets chirping”.
It does seem incredible that today the House Sparrow is so declined, having been ubiquitous and abundant during my childhood – it’s chirruping calls forming the daytime background to all my activities, wherever I was. In Dad’s youth, he says, ” they nested around the eaves, but especially made large untidy nests in a line of cypresses in Mr Coultas’ garden next door. When these were cut down, the sparrows locally began their recession. At present, they are very unusual visitors to the feeding station in The Ridge garden, but small colonies persist by the surgery at Fryern Hill, and on Otterbourne Hill, near “The Otter”.
Five pounds of blackberries are picked in the opposite woods during the morning of the 10th – the day when “double summertime” (that is, when British Summer Time was two hours ahead of GMT) ended – with the “company of tormenting flies and biting mosquitos”. And she transfers minute Clouded Yellow (scientific name: Colias croceus in those days) caterpillars to fresh foodplant, with a fine paintbrush – “a tedious job”. Nineteen forty-seven, Dad remembers, was the last great “croceus year”. There was an influx of migrants in May, which produced offspring in the summer, reinforced by another strong immigration. They went on into November, he tells me.
The next day another six pounds of fruit (this time dewberries) are picked from the wild, during a cycle trip to the Punch Bowl on the Petersfield Road. Gran writes:
Carting and threshing were going on in many fields and the farm workers with their bright blue wagons and scarlet threshing machines made an attractive picture with the fields of stooked corn in the background and a cloudless blue sky above.
We drove through the New Forest to a Gymnkhana in King’s Park, Bournemouth today…passing through Cadnam we saw the New Forest Beagles being exercised and they made an attractive group as they passed along the tree-lined road. I can never understand why people in the New Forest sit and picnic in the ditches at the side of the main road and leave the whole of the Forest unexplored, yet say that they have “seen” the famous New Forest. Only those who wander in its depths as we have done know its real beauty.
This, Dad says, would have been with Gran’s brother, his uncle Norris – he was the only one in the family with a car at that time.
August 14th is Dad’s 17th birthday – but it’s not mentioned in the journal. It seems to be an unusually hot and prolonged summer; indeed, towards the end of the month Gran writes that “we have certainly enjoyed the best summer since nineteen-forty”. The Nightjar continues to sing in and close to the garden at night, Clouded Yellows are everywhere, and the lake at Hiltingbury is completely dry at one end; Gran says that it is years since she remembered it being in this condition. After mentioning a Clouded Yellow seen in Kingsway, Gran relates the reason for the road’s name:
Incidentally, Kingsway is so named because it is the original highway along which King William Rufus was carried on a litter from Stony Cross in the New Forest to Winchester Cathedral for burial after he had been accidentally killed by the glancing arrow from the bow of Sir Walter Tyrell.
She, according to another piece of her writing I have found, once related this piece of history to a small boy, whilst waiting for a bus in Kingsway. She says, “when I told him, he asked if I saw William Rufus being carried along”!
Leaning out of her bedroom window, Gran observes a hedgehog in the shrubbery below on the 18th. It was eating a piece of bacon rind and on Gran going outside and gently tipping the creature backwards she could see its face, snout and beady eyes, as well as that it was “very verminous” – with ticks, Dad remembers, all bloated bluish-white. She writes:
…I hope this is the same one who met us on our doorstep as we returned from the air-raid shelter the night the “doodlebug” fell and removed ten of our windows and lifted the roof.
This, the first of two that fell near Hiltingbury, landed right in the middle of what was known as Hedges Field, behind the eastern row of houses in Kingsway, including No 99, where my Mum lived as a child. It damaged a few houses apparently, but there were no casualties. Some repairs to the wall of The Ridge were necessary during the 1980s, as a result of this blast. The second came down a few days later on two houses at the junction of Pine Road and Hiltingbury Road, completely destroying them and resulting in fatalities.
A few days later, after recording the hedgehog in the garden daily, she mentions that she runs downstairs and puts out a small saucer of bread and milk – which the animal joyfully consumes. This is the first mention of her hedgehog feeding and as far as I can remember, Gran performed this ritual every night during the summer for years and years, always referring to “the hedgehog” or “my hedgehog coming for his supper”. I wonder how many suffered from this highly unsuitable diet – today’s wisdom being that one should put out meaty cat food for these animals, and certainly not dairy products!
She mentions on the 19th August that Gentiana pneumonanthe (Marsh Gentian) is in flower again at Beaulieu Road – one of her favourite plants – and it is the only place I myself have seen this species, where it still flowers today. On the 24th she makes a trip there in the hope of finding enough to allow her to pick a few, and she says she was “fortunate enough to locate a new haunt for these lovely blue gentians where they were very prevalent”.
On August 27th:
The wind was blowing in from the South coast for I heard “Queen Elizabeth” clearly booming her siren as she sailed from Southampton docks, a good seven miles from here.
I suppose that, stemming from her Father’s association with the great ocean liners of the day, Gran had a true love of the ships that came and went at Southampton Docks. She would take me, when very young, to see Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary and I remember watching, with her, France leaving Southampton in the early 1960s, the longest passenger ship of her day and looking quite awsome.
A camping trip on August 26th – 28th is related. It was a short cycling trip around the Island by Dad with his friend Ken Woolley; He tells me, “the only Lepidoptera I recorded were Colias croceus (Clouded Yellow) f. helice [this is an uncommon pale form of Clouded Yellow] at Bembridge and Heliothis peltigera (Bordered Straw) on Culver Cliff (both migrants). I recorded them at the time by their scientific names, and had to check the colloquial of peltigera [when I wrote this] today!”. Ravens and Peregrines were also recorded.
August 29th is the last entry in the first book of Gran’s journal:
I went to the Winchester byepass this evening for elderberries for jelly and was delighted to find many summer flowers still making a brave show.
I saw a Greater Whitethroat in the Park Road garden and chiff-chaffs were heard in the grounds of Merdon. There are many carp in the lake now, and small boys (and some big ones!) have appeared in hordes with rod and line. Fortunately most of them throw the fish back again.
The carp were introduced to Hiltingbury Lake shortly after the War, and soon after, for the first time, a permit was required to fish there. I get the impression Dad was a bit miffed about this! And the next day Gran writes:
The woodland this afternoon was a sheer delight, deep silence, broken only by the wind in the trees, the occasional chirp of a bird and the crickets, and the echo of my own footsteps in the road or the swish of bracken as I pushed my way through. And the perfume! Again the fragrance of warm pine trees, and undergrowth, the strong scent of mint mingled with the subtle odour of ripe, juicy blackberries. I admit that I hid in the undergrowth when I heard human voices because I did not want my solitude disturbed.
September 3rd, Gran remembers, is the eighth anniversary of our entry to the “war which was to bring us a better world.That world is now worse than ever before, or rather, conditions in it are worse”. And Dad writes to me, concerning that day in 1939, “I well remember Mother telling me War had broken out, weeping on the gate at the bottom of the drive, which we had at the time”.
Amongst records of more usual species on this date is a report of a probable Camberwell Beauty, a particularly rare migrant butterfly:
Fish were rising in the lake this morning and about thirty moorhens were seen. We received a report of a Camberwell Beauty butterfly being seen near the lake but it had gone and we were unable to verify its identity. But it sounded quite authentic because it was described as large and dark, similar to a peacock but with white edges to its wings, this last being practically conclusive.
Dad had recorded this species a few years earlier: “The only Camberwwell Beauty I ever saw was on 6 October, 1945, along one of the unmade roads opposite. I was on a bike, dressed in shirt sleeves and without a net: I hurried home for same, came back and waited patiently, but did not see it again (see Goater, 1974, The Butterflies & Moths of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, p.235)”.
The following is not about a rare bird but is interesting enough to be worth including:
…I was told of a large black bird which seemed very tame and was often to be seen on the main road picking up scraps of food thrown to it by the people living nearby. I said at the time that I expected it was a jackdaw, but the people who told me were certain that it was a raven or something equally unusual. However, I saw it myself this afternoon at the nursery in Eastleigh where I obtain my tomatoes. It is a jackdaw and it had been “helping” the men to repaint a greenhouse, poking about and sitting on their arms and heads whilst they worked. It had white paint on its beak and feet but would not stay away from their vicinity. It belongs to the police station across the grounds, and its bright eyes watch incessantly for mischief!
The same day, September 5th, she records Spotted Flycatchers in the garden taking not only insects but also attempting to take berries from her Pyrus tree. I needed to check this information in The Birds of the Western Palearctic because I thought it highly unlikely for such an insectivorous bird, but indeed, there it states, ” berries taken occasionally during the breeding season, more regularly in autumn”.
Clouded Yellow butterflies are emerging from the breeding cages around this time and Gran notes that a specimen of Marsh Gentian has been sent to Mr Fitzgerald from near Calshot “a new district for this flower. It was sent by a young botanist from Eastleigh, Norman Lee, who is attending a Welsh University”.
Mr Fitzgerald has been mentioned a few times in the journal, and I thought that he may have been be the local botanical recorder. I’m grateful, however, for the following information from Dad and Martin Rand, the current Botanical Recorder for Hampshire’s Vice County 11: the only Fitzgeralds mentioned in Hamphire Flora are H.Purefoy Fitzgerald and Lady R.A. Fitzgerald, evidently unrelated. HPF was a botanist who, among other things, recorded Gagea lutea (Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem) near Preston Candover, which is still there, but he was never County Recorder. He lived in Preston Candover and died in 1948.
Gran goes on:
As I went into Southampton I could not help noticing the brilliant patches of colour made by the late Rosebay Willow-herb in the deserted prisoner of war camp at Hut Hill.
This was a rare plant in th UK before its spread was facilitated by the railway network in the 18th century, and it is particularly adapted to colonising disturbed and burnt ground, hence its predilection for bombed city sites after World War II.
On September 10th:
We went to Romsey Agricultural and Horse Show for the day…A thatcher was at work on a barn and it seemed such a real country sight. It is very skilled work and I could have watched him until he had completed the roof without being bored.
The following is an example of Gran’s more generalised descriptive writing at this time, painting a rather charming picture of a typical Hiltingbury day. September 13th:
Heavy rain and gale in the early hours and still raining at dawn, though it eased a little later. Temperature was sixty-seven degrees. Robins, Chaffinches, and Tits were chattering but only the Robins really singing. Two more clouded yellows emerged early. Rain persisted all the morning and most of the afternoon. Chaffinches were eating the fallen Pyrus berries and Bluetits were very active in the silver birches in the garden. One Coletit [sic] was hunting insects in the Prunus tree. A Chiff-chaff was heard calling in the Pinewoods this afternoon and a lone Herring-Gull flew over towards the coast. A Woodpigeon flew noisily out of one of the trees as I went down the garden. It cleared up early in the evening and there was a burst of brilliant sunshine, which brought out many Robins who chirruped and sang all round. The small Erigeron which was awaiting identification has been seen by the botanical department of the British Museum at Kensington and it is a variety of Erigeron acris [Blue Fleabane], its stature being such because of its habitat, namely the dry barish ground at Farley Mount. By sunset it was clear again save for the whisps of dark cloud and the wind had dropped.
Sunset was lovely – I saw it through silver birches and it was a blaze of golden light flickering through the dainty outline of the leaves and silvered trunks against the sky. A Green Woodpecker was flying round and round the opposite wood but uttering no sound whilst a Blackbird was scolding in the undergrowth. It was cool and still as I came home at dusk, and the evening star was out, brilliant and solitary in a dusky blue-black sky, and the Robin sang his little sad, sweet evensong. An owl was hooting in the opposite wood and as I came into the garden a small bat was out hunting, squeaking as he flew round the house. The temperature indoors had dropped to sixty-five degrees at dusk. There were no crickets chirping and I missed the friendly little sound. Owls are screeching in the Pinewood as I write and Hedgehog is having his supper. He is very late, it is past ten-thirty!
- 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)