Another visit to Kingston upon Thames; approval for the Winchester by-pass; war-time house-sharing; a rare plant appears in the garden and harvest festival celebrated at Compton Church.
On the 21st, there is a description of the autumnal bird movements and also of the colourful shrubs around Hursley at that time of year. Spindle is Gran’s favourite shrub, the fruits “just becoming that lovely shade of rose”.
And she has pressed three spindle leaves in the diary at this point. She dismounts (obviously on her bike today) at Farley Mount, which was “delightful, quiet and undisturbed”… I went before other folk had stirred themselves”…to gather berries.
She also notes that day, the origin of the name “dogwood” which, she says, used to be called “Dag-wood” and “Prickwood”, because it was used for making arrows and other sharp-pointed things.
The following day she is excited that a “Large Wainscot” (Rhizedra lutosa) moth was taken at light in the garden – new in “their” experience for the district. And the day after that sees her on the train bound again for Kingston upon Thames. She notes a large flock of Peewits flying up from a ploughed field between Winchester and Micheldever, and burned heathland in the Fleet area. Gran, with Adrian’s mother (what, I wonder, did the mother think of Gran, aged forty-something, married with two teen-aged children of her own but quietly obsessed with her recently departed son?) takes Spindle to the “Garden of Rest”. There is a little pink pressed flower and a leaf between the pages of the diary here. She stays the night with Adrian’s mother at Kingston.
The next morning they walk together along the Thames as far as Teddington Lock and there is much of interest to Gran – in a different environment to her norm. Of particular interest to her was the Half Mile Tree:
…an ancient elm, said to be nearly a thousand years old. It has a very wide bole now reinforced with concrete and chains to prevent further decay, but the foliage is in excellent condition. Teddington Bridge is also of great interest, one end, the Kingston side of the river, is in Surrey and, the Teddington end in Middlesex.
They visited Ham Common and Richmond Park in the afternoon, at the latter place, being thrilled to see fallow deer and “many fine trees”. One plantation of oaks there had been planted in 1825. Gran travelled home that night, witnessing “a very wonderful sunset from the train between Kingston and Waterloo. Gran writes up some of Dad’s news of the day – that eight hummingbird hawk-moths had been seen at Chandler’s Ford, hovering around Petunias (as Dad remembers) in a garden just up the road, and that a helice variety of clouded yellow had been seen in Winchester. “Hedgehog came as usual for his supper” that evening, she says, and also that she will miss her “prickly friend” and his daily evening visits when he goes into hibernation, but hopes he will return in the Spring.
Journal entries at this time make it clear that she is working in the Park Road garden almost daily. She is hoeing on the 26th; with a Robin “quite unafraid” picking up grubs almost at her feet.
On the 27th September, Gran makes her way to Winchester via Cranbury Park:
The berries and leaves along the Winchester byepass were truly a solace for sad hearts, for they were in all their Autumn glory, some wild such as guelder, crimson and orange, and others planted along the middle of the road. These include, among others, orange- and yellow-berried Pyracantha, several barberries and Berberis, all making the byepass “afire with God”.
I wonder if she actually meant to write “afire with gold”.
Dad had told me from when I was very young that the Winchester by-pass was the first dual carriageway in the country. Interesting to me that any part of this modern concession to the hated increasing traffic would find favour with Gran! The next day:
Across the woods came the knell [perhaps “toll” is what Gran really meant] of the Church bell, always I think, a sound which brings a sense of comfort and security, especially after so many years of silence. To Farley Mount for the good of my soul and it was satisfying and altogether beautiful.
She writes, that evening, after listening to the “wireless”:
An orgy of music tonight has perhaps disturbed my thought and unsettled my mind. It is strange how sad beautiful music can make one feel. The hedgehog did come for his supper and ate every scrap…
Following a visit to Southampton on the last day of the month Gran, feeling depressed, writes:
The worst invasion of whites upon the greenstuffs seems to be over, but caterpillars are terribly prevalent. There was evidence of great activity by moles in the bed in which I was hoeing. I had to go to Southampton docks this afternoon and it was a desolate and depressing journey. The devastation caused by man’s hatred and spite is still as it has been for the past six or seven years and it fills one with a feeling of hopelessness and despair.
Dad tells me that White butterflies were an extremely abundant pest at times: his Form Master, “Tom” Pierce, at Peter Symonds, started a competition by which you scored a point for every Large or Small White you brought in, lost a point for a Green-veined White and lost five points for a helice Clouded Yellow [which, to some, looked pale enough to be a “white”]. “We ran about Hedges Field (see Part 7 of this series) netting them, pinching the thorax, and when we had a large wodge of bodies, emptied then into a box. You did a bit of good, and learned some Natural History.”
I’m interested in Gran’s need to go to Southampton docks. I know that for a number of years – possibly many more than I knew – she delivered flowers ordered for the cabins of the ready-to-depart Cunard liners, such as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, and I also remember the lovely lilac coloured Union-Castle Line ships, where she also delivered flowers.
These flowers were supplied by the florist’s shop in Southampton, managed and owned by Bob and “Tommy” (maiden name Joan Tomlinson) Fowler. These were very loyal friends of Gran and Grampa, and were Godparents to my Dad.
Tommy and Bob had moved in to The Ridge for safety after their Southampton house received an incendiary bomb during the War. On the very same day, Aunts Em and Fanny, sisters of Gran’s mother, “Greaty” (whose name was Nellie), also sought refuge at The Ridge, their house in Bassett having received a land mine.
The Fowlers and their three children, Jill, Diana and John, stayed for 13 months. The Ridge population during that period was a cramped 12, and must have been particularly difficult given Gran’s and Gramp’s rather separate lives. Such, I feel, were the necessities and selfless compromises of war!
On this subject, Dad writes, “…and we just adapted to the situation: Dad slept alone in the front bedroom, Mother, sister Jane and I slept in the dining room, Tommy, Bob, Jill and Diana in “my” bedroom, John in Minnie’s Room [a tiny upstairs room, just about big enough for a single bed], Greaty in the front bedroom over the garage, and Em and Fanny in the back bedroom. We ate en masse in the kitchen”.
Bob Fowler served in the Home Guard with Grampa. Diana Fowler appeared loosely in my life years later, as it was through her work as an adult, that I first heard of Peter Scott. She worked in the Education Department at Slimbridge, the wildfowl reserve on the Severn Estuary, where I worked for five years during the 1980s, and known in those days as The Severn Wildfowl Trust. Diana, who still lives in Gloucestershire, and I are still in touch via Christmas cards and the occasional reunion event.
Gran describes a rural scene on October 3rd:
A large herd of brown and white cows with their calves was in one of the fields, their sleek hides glistening as they stood in the sunshine contentedly chewing the cud. A tractor driven by a land-girl passed along the lane but the mechanical farm appliances do not seem to me to be so much in keeping with the countryside as the horse-drawn such as were used of old.
The following day’s weather was so clear and quiet that Gran notes, as she had some weeks before with regard to the liner Queen Elizabeth, that she could “hear the Queen Mary booming as she left Southampton Docks”. She continues on another subject:
A miracle, yes! A miracle has happened and given me a wealth of happiness and excitement. On looking out of the front window early this afternoon a glimpse of bluish-purple on the front grass caught my eye. I went out to investigate and to my joy a Crocus nudiflorus (Autumnal crocus) has appeared out of the blue, as it were! We have never had one before, and none has been planted, yet, there it stood, fully open in the sun, the stigmas cut, as Bentham and Hooker say, into an elegant orange fringe. Can it be, I wonder, that a bird dropped the seed, or if not, whence came this treasure? It is on the corner of what we call our rough and mossy bit of grass, not velvet lawn, but natural and full of bulbs in Spring.
On October 6th she writes that confirmation of the identity of “my” crocus as the truly wild Crocus nudiflorus gave her great pleasure. Whatever its provenance, it is lovely to witness Gran’s evident excitement. Following her first finding of this plant she makes her way:
Towards Winchester this afternoon to pick elderberries for jelly, and bright leaves and berries to adorn a basket of fruit for the Harvest Festival tomorrow.
It has been a summer of wonderful weather, prompting Gran to write at the end of the day:
These past few days and nights, following such a summer – days and nights of boundless beauty – have left me feeling bruised inside somehow, for too much loveliness hurts me now.
Gran, with Dad, makes her way to Compton church for the Harvest Festival on October 5th, taking a route up Kingsway, through Cranbury Park, and via Otterbourne. It was frosty, and misty, St Catherine’s Hill being obscured:
The Old Church at Compton was a picture inside today, decorated for Harvest Festival. Besides the gifts of choice fruit and vegetables, the stone-coloured pitchers were filled with Michaelmas daisies of various shades, Sunflowers, Yellow Dahlias and trails of wild Clematis in seed. The Altar flowers consisted of Orange Dahlias, Spindle and wild Clematis, with brightly-coloured leaves of wild Guelder. As the service proceeded, the sun shone through the East window like a Heavenly Benediction and rested upon the pitcher of flowers on the window-ledge in the old part of the Church where the children’s service is held. This made an unforgettable picture, Chinese Lanterns, Sunflowers, white Michaelmas Daisies and wild Clematis, standing against the leaded lights of the window and the old grey stone of the walls.
Is there still such a Harvest Festival celebration at Compton Church, with a similar array of flowers, in the same pitchers?
On the way home, at Otterbourne Church:
I saw a lady carrying a posy of a most attractive shrub. She was going to the Garden of Sleep and, as is the custom among country folk, she smiled at me and said “Good morning”. I spoke about the shrub and she told me it was Californian Fuchsia. It has flowers rather like a large honeysuckle, but a lovely orange shade, and I was told it had been in bloom for several weeks.
Gran is in the Park Road garden on October 7th, noting butterflies, a dragonfly and various common birds, including sparrows chirping in the laurel hedge. She adds:
Incidentally, the name of the private house belonging to this garden is “Sparrows Hedge”, and it is certainly suitable.
- 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)