Winston Churchill on Hut Hill; more woodland clearance; a doggy encounter; Rooks in peril; that Cuckoo is back again; “the Egg”; flowers to “the Queen”; Gran has an epiphany and Norris picks a rare flower.
March 18th 1949, Gran writes:
Necessity took me to Southampton today… The bombed sites are ablaze with Coltsfoot now, creeping over the rubble and pouring down the slopes like golden streams. Knots of people standing about and the Convent schoolgirls lining The Avenue spoke of some untoward excitement and I was surprised to hear that Mr Churchill was expected to pass at any moment on his way to the docks to board “Queen Elizabeth”. I was already in the ‘bus for home and I cannot say that I saw him but we did pass his car on Hut Hill! In Park Road a Larch tree is already decked in its soft green tassels of fresh, new growth, one of the loveliest sights of Spring.
The following day, Gran makes one of her frequent trips along “the lane to Eastleigh”, which for most of her walk, was Oakmount Road, but not entirely, it seems:
…the lane which today, after twenty-one years, I discovered, is called Woodside Road. Whether the name is new or only the name-plate at the end, I do not know, but the Larks sang as always… Unfortunately, the copse at the Chandler’s Ford end where the Nightingales have sung for years, is being cleared, so I am afraid that by the time they are due to arrive they will have to seek fresh haunts.
(Nevertheless, she records there a month later that she, “heard a few tentative notes from a Nightingale in a favourite thicket which, I was afraid would have been cleared before it arrived, but operations seem to have been suspended.”)
She continues on March 19th, and surprisingly (to me, anyway, as she has written elsewhere that she wishes owners would keep their pets in their own gardens) she is happy to meet a dog:
I met a red setter in the narrowest part of the lane, a great, friendly beastie who bounced up to me and pushed his nose up against me so that I was forced to dismount. Even then his delight was so over-whelming that I and my bicycle were in danger of ending up in a heap in the road. It would have been most mortifying to have to be picked up by the owner, who hastened up, full of apologies, but he really was a most beautiful animal – the dog, I mean! – his red-brown coat shining in the sunshine.
More clearance of nearby woodland is noted on the 20th:
This afternoon Jane and I went in search of Primroses, but although we gathered a nice posy each we were disappointed and saddened to find that our favourite copse in Shepherd’s Lane has been cleared and many of the primrose roots trampled. True, the clearing revealed to me the presence of Adoxa moschattellina (Moschatel) in this copse, now in flower for the first time this year, and I had not previously found it in this locality.
Perhaps this particular copse clearance was part of planned woodland management – which in the long-run, though looking devastating at first, is good for the rejuvenation of coppice woodland and its ground-flora.
Dad, that day, was “bug-hunting”. This was the term always used for “moth-hunting” by Dad and his fellow collectors. It was many years before I understood that bugs were a completely different group of insects, and it surprised me that these scientists were happy with the inaccuracy of the term. Gran writes:
The blue mist was creeping over the woodlands again at dusk. It was raining just after ten o’clock when Barry came in after a successful day at Portsmouth digging for Hawk-moth chrysalids. He said there were great numbers of moths on the wing and immediately dashed out again. His energy and enthusiasm are amazing.
And these attributes have stayed with him throughout his life. Gran quotes the following at the start of her entry for the 21st, the first day of Spring:
“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge” – Disraeli. And the more knowledge you accumulate in the realm of nature, the more ignorant you find yourself! I know.
On the last occasion when Gran visited Kingston upon Thames to visit Adrian’s mother, she nearly missed her train and had to be shoved through a door as the carriage moved off! This time though, on the 22nd:
Today I caught the train at Eastleigh with a comfortable margin and met with unaccustomed courtesy from fellow passengers, both here and at Basingstoke where I changed for Surbiton. How pleasing good manners appear in young men today, when such are so often lost in the rush and scramble of modern life!
While at Kingston, they walk along the river to Teddington “though at present I know that walking is an effort for Adrian’s gallant little mother” and she sees:
…something I have never seen before – a Black Swan, smaller and more slender than the Mutes and with brilliant scarlet beak.
She returns home two days later and writes:
By the time I reached Chandler’s Ford, it was brilliantly starlit and colder. As before, Mary [Harding] received me with a friendly welcome and a cheering and restoring meal in spite of the fact that I was nearly an hour late, having been held up at Basingstoke by the Ocean Liner Express for the “Queen Mary”.
And later, in the quiet of the dawn, she hears the ship’s siren “heralding her departure from Southampton”.
Gran gives a brief description of The Ridge’s garden at this time:
This is essentially a Spring garden, for bulbs make a wonderful display and primroses – Caucasus, rosy-mauve, and the common variety in all shades from yellow to deep rose-pink, appear everywhere besides hyacinths, muscari and tulips, with Forsythia hanging its golden blooms from various walls. But it gets too dry in summer so that the flowers never make the brave show given by spring favourites.
This afternoon I went along the River from the white bridge at Brambridge to Shawford and found a quiet peace and that timeless tranquillity…
But before long:
… the peaceful serenity was disturbed by the arrival of three “toughs” with a catapult and a dog. They were aiming at the Rooks in a rookery but the whizzing stones only caused the birds to rise with harsh cries and, fortunately, the cowardly wretches were bad shots, and caused no casualties. This is when I am truly ashamed of human nature!
There is further distress a couple of days later:
Today I have been saddened because the bracken and undergrowth is being burned in the opposite wood, and from the blackened turf the acrid smell of smoke has permeated the air all day. Soon the new growth of bracken will cover the scars, but I grieve for the small lives which must inevitably have been lost in the conflagration. Mercifully, only a few birds have commenced nesting and not many will have eggs yet.
And later that day:
Jackdaws were carrying nesting material to a chimney in Merdon Avenue, on the house of a builder of all people, only this one possesses one of the sweetest tenor voices I have ever heard, but I do not know whether his soul would rise to allowing Jackdaws to remain in his chimney. Anyway, I shall not be the one to tell him they are there!
As in previous years, the first arrival dates of the summer migrant birds, Wheatear, Chiffchaff, Sand Martin and Willow Warbler are recorded – this year often being first noted by Barry and Jock as they cycle to the New Forest, or to Timsbury, to Farley Mount or along the River Itchen. There is joy on April 6th:
Wet and windy all day but – the Cuckoo is here! Yes, the Cuckoo, our own special one who has been in the opposite wood at least during the last four Springtimes, for he has a unique call, a double-noted one… This is the same arrival date as in 1944, three days later than our earliest record of 1946. The latest date of arrival for this area was April 13th in 1947.
However, Gran records later in the month that “Cuckoos are in very short numbers in this district this year”. Sleet and hail fall on April 7th, which is also stormy and windy, such that “hats were a permanent worry to their owners, but…”, Gran writes:
…”the Egg” seemed sturdily unperturbed as usual. I must explain “the Egg”. I have no idea who she is, except that she is one of the residents of the woodland, in one of the temporary homes, and one of the most engaging little people I have ever seen. She has only been here during this Winter and is invariably clad in long, dark “trousers” and a saxe blue coat. She possesses a shining head of golden curls. She is, perhaps, three years old, no more. But it is her intense love of life and her interest in everything about her that is her greatest charm. Everything attracts her attention. The trees, the traffic on the road, every child or dog, the workmen at present at work on the paths, flowers, oh! everything! All must be closely investigated. Sometimes it is something small on the ground. This is when I like “the Egg” best. She is irresistible. She stops, peers over, bent almost double, those ridiculous long trousers and golden head! She is so engrossed and nearly always stumbles when she starts on again. Once, she fell, but quite unconcerned, scrambled up again, brushed herself down and followed on. Happily, her mother is the soul of patience, and never tries to hustle the little one, who can peer and stare to her heart’s content. She is a picture, and today the strong wind at times made it impossible for her to move on at all. But “the Egg” struggled manfully and I saw her sturdy little figure disappearing up the woodland road, a ray of brilliant sunshine on her curly head.
“The Egg” would be in her 70’s now. Is she still in Chandler’s Ford? The garden of Kingfisher Lodge, near the River at Brambridge, was open to the public on April 10th, and Gran and Jane visit there during the afternoon:
Kingfisher Lodge is all I have ever thought it, for many times I have looked enviously at it from the other side of the river, but never been in before.
She loves the rock garden and the informal charm of the rest of the garden, “beneath the budding trees, daffodils in profusion and great clumps of blue anemones…”
I have today obtained a book for which I have been patiently (or otherwise) waiting since last July. It is Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald’s “Hampshire” and I am sure, will prove well worth waiting for.
Easter Day, April 17th 1949, appears to have been particularly special for Gran, who has often written of her shame about not being able to accept fully the message of Christ and the promise of a glorious afterlife. This day, however, an uplifting sermon at her beloved Compton Church, together with the beauty of the Spring day create something of an epiphany for her:
…my heart accepted to the full all that I have so longed to believe utterly and I feel at last that in spite of the inevitable recurrent sorrow my days of hopeless despair are over. Today is the culmination of a period of desperate seeking and recently a strange and beautiful mystery has given to me the absolute answer to my previous doubts. I cannot explain exactly what I mean, but this brings me such a sense of peace and comfort that it leaves me no doubt about that which means more to me than life itself and which will, I am sure, give me the necessary patience to wait until all is explained.
Dad is breeding some interesting butterflies around this time. Gran several times notes that Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries emerge in the breeding cage, and on the 20th:
Barry went over to the Isle of Wight today to look for caterpillars of the Glanville Fritillary butterfly and in this he was successful, finding about two dozen….He found the larvae he wanted on the undercliff at Ventnor, feeding on Plantago maritima (Sea Plantain) and also one Cream-spot Tiger caterpillar.
I knew that Gran delivered flowers, on occasion, to the liners docked at Southampton, but to date, there has been no mention of this in her journal. Today though, she gives a little detail:
I spent an interesting and unusual evening… I helped a friend [her great chum, “Tommy” Fowler], a florist, to deliver flowers to passengers on the “Queen Elizabeth”. She is certainly a magnificent liner and beautifully equipped but the atmosphere was stifling to one accustomed to the open air, and the oppressive opulence and blasé boredom of the majority of passengers made me feel thankful that I could find my contentment in the simple pleasures of the countryside.
She is saddened that the flowers are so little appreciated by the recipients, many of whom scarcely look at them, and some even said, she writes:
“Oh don’t bring me any more for goodness’ sake!”… these obviously wealthy, well-fed people even had too many flowers, yet it never entered their heads to say, “Will you take these to a hospital instead”… Nevertheless, the experience was not without humour. One little fat gentleman of distinctly Hebraic appearance, accepted his flowers with thanks and said, “Just a minute Ducks”, and presented me with a two-shilling tip! I trailed over the ship up and down stairs and gangways, from one deck to another for just over two hours and by that time was more tired than I was when I cycled over sixty miles and walked about in between, looking for flowers. And how I appreciated the air when I came away from the ship, even the air of Southampton Docks.
Heavy rain fell on the afternoon of April 21st:
…and I should have been pleased to see it but Jane had gone to Whipsnade Zoo for the day, a treat, the tickets for which were provided by Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald after he had been down here to take three of the Guides, Jane included, for their Naturalist’s Badge, and I was caught at Farley Mount with a child who had for a long time wanted to go, and in the end I had to take her because nobody else showed sufficient interest to do so.
In spite of the downpour they saw some interesting things for the young girl and sheltered for some time in the monument at the top. They arrived home soaked and Gran writes:
On the way there we paused in Hocombe Road (I have always spelt this wrongly previously), attracted by a Nightingale singing in a thicket by the white bridge…
There is a lot going on that day, because:
Brother [Norris] today provided me with a tremendous thrill. He is at present in Ireland and sent me a specimen of Gentiana verna (Spring Gentian) which he had found in the vicinity of Galway Bay. This is a rarity in Britain, according to Bentham and Hooker, apparently confined to a few localities in Northern England and Western Ireland.
- 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)