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NATURAL HISTORY OF SELBORNE.
TO THOMAS PENNANT, ESQ. THE parish of Selborne lies in the extreme eastern corner of the county of Hampshire, bordering on the county of Sussex, and' not far from the county of Surrey ; is about fifty miles south-west of London, in latitude 51, and near midway between the towns of Alton and Petersfield. Being very large and extensive, it abuts on twelve parishes, two of which are in Sussex, viz. Trotton and Rogate. If you begin from the south, and proceed westward, the adjacent parishes are Emshot, Newton Valence, Faringdon, Harteley, Mauduit, Great Ward-le-ham, Kingsley, Hedleigh, Bramshot, Trotton, Rogate, Lysse, and Greatham. The soils of this district are almost as various and diversified as the views and aspects. The high part to the south-west consists of a vast hill of chalk, rising three hundred feet above the village; and is divided into a sheep-down, the high wood, and a long hanging wood, called the Hanger. The covert of this emi nence is altogether beech, the most lovely of all forest trees, whether we consider its smooth rind or bark, its glossy foliage, or graceful pendulous boughs.* The down, or
* The beech is certainly a beautiful tree, either when planted singly or in lumps ; but I cannot agree with our author, in thinking it the "most lovely of all forest trees." The ash and birch, and perhaps the Huntingdon willow,
sheep-walk, is a pleasing park-like spot, of about one mile by half that space, jutting out on the verge of the hillcountry, where it begins to break down into the plains, and commanding a very engaging view, being an assemblage of hill, dale, woodlands, heath, and water. The prospect is bounded to the south-east and east by the vast range of mountains, called the Sussex Downs ; by Guild-down, near Guildford, and by the Downs round Dorking, and Ryegate in Surrey, to the north-east;_which altogether, with the country beyond Alton, and Farnham, form a noble and extensive outline.
At the foot of this hill, one stage, or step from the uplands, lies the village, which consists of one single straggling street, three quarters of a mile in length, in a sheltered vale and running parallel with the Hanger. The houses are divided from the hill by a vein of stiff clay, (good wheat land,) yet stand on a rock of white stone, little in appearance removed from chalk; but seems so far from being calcareous, that it endures extreme heat. Yet, that the freestone still preserves somewhat that is analogous to chalk, is plain, from the beeches, which descend as low as those rocks extend, and so farther, and thrive as well on them, where the ground .8 steep, as on the chalks.
The cart-way of the village divides, in a remarkable
are certainly more elegant and graceful : the former, I think, has been termed by Gilpin, the “ Venus” of British trees. The plane and horse-chestnut wili outvie it in a dense and deep rich foliage, while the oak will far outstrip all in an imposing and venerable aspect. The beech was formerly much more planted than at present. It was admirably suited for the landscape gardening of the last century; and the wood was of more value, being much in request for various parts of machinery, which the extensive use of iron has now superBeded.—W.J.
We quite agree with Mr. White in his praise of the beech tree. When we consider the beauty of its velvet green leaves, as they first burst forth in the spring, and its glowing russet foliage in the autumn, and then look at its silvery bark, and bold projecting roots, both here and there covered with verdant mosses, it is impossible not to allow it to be “the most lovely of all forest trees." Those who have seen the Burnham beeches, the noble beech trees in Windsor Great Park and its adjoining forest, and those in a forest between Henley-on-Thames and Petsworth, will not be inclined to concur with Sir William Jardine, in preferring the ash, birch, and Huutingdon willow, to it. What are more graceful than the pendulous branches of the beech, covered with hoar frost in winter (Ed.
manner, two very incongruous soils. To the south-west is a rank clay, that requires the labour of years to render it mellow; while the gardens to the north-east, and small enclosures behind, consist of a warm, forward, crumbling mould, called black malm, which seems highly saturated with vegetable and animal manure; and these may perhaps have been the original site of the town; while the woods and coverts might extend down to the opposite bank.
At each end of the village, which runs from south-east to north-west, arises a small rivulet: that at the north-west end frequently fails; but the other is a fine perennial spring, little influenced by drought or wet seasons, called Wellhead.* This breaks out of some high grounds adjoining to Nore Hill, a noble chalk promontory, remarkable for sending forth two streams into two different seas. The one to the south becomes a branch of the Arun, running to Arundel, and so falling into the British Channel ; the other to the north. The Selborne stream makes one branch of the Wey; and, meeting the Blackdown stream at Hedleigh, and the Alton and Farnham stream at Tilford-bridge, swells into a considerable river, navigable at Godalming; from whence it passes to Guildford, and so into the Thames at Weybridge; and thus at the Nore into the German Ocean.
Our wells, at an average, run to about sixty-three feet, and, when sunk to that depth, seldom fail; but produce a fine limpid water, soft to the taste, and much commended by those who drink the pure element, but which does not lather
well with soap.
To the north-west, north, and east, of the village, is a range of fair enclosures, consisting of what is called a white inalm, a sort of rotten or rubble stone, which, when turned up to the frost and rain, moulders to pieces, and becomes ipanure to itself.+
Still on to the north-east, and a step lower, is a kind of
* This spring produced, September 14, 1781, after a severe hot summer, und a preceding dry spring and winter, nine gallons of water in a minute, which is five hundred and forty in an hour, and twelve thousand nine hundred and uixty, or two hundred and sixteen hogsheads in twenty-four hours, or one natural day. At this time many of the wells failed, and all the ponds in the sales were dry.
+ This soil produces good wheat and clover,
white land, neither chalk nor clay, neither fit for pasture nor for the plough, yet kindly for hops, which root deep into the freestone, and have their poles and wood for charcoal growing just at hand. This white soil produces the brightest hops.
As the parish still inclines down towards Wolmer Forest, at the juncture of the clays and sand, the soil becomes a wet, sandy loam, remarkable for timber, and infamous for roads. The oaks of Temple and Blackmoor stand high in the estimation of purveyors, and have furnished much naval timber; while the trees on the freestone grow large, but are what workmen call shakey, and so brittle as often to fall to pieces in sawing.* Beyond the sandy loam the soil becomes a hungry lean sand, till it mingles with the forest ; and will produce little without the assistance of lime and turnips.
TO THE SAME.
In the court of Norton farm-house, a manor farm to the north-west of the village, on the white malms, stood within these twenty years a broad-leaved elm, or wych hazel, ulmus folio latissimo scabrot of Ray, which, though it had lost & considerable leading bough in the great storm in the year
* The common larch is very soon lost when planted above a substratum of red sandstone. In the Vale of the Annan, wherever the sloping banks have a substratum of this rock, or one composed of a sort of red sandstone, shingle, or gravel, the outward decay of the tree is visible at from fifteen to twenty-five years of age. The internal decay commences sooner, according to the depth of the upper soil, in the centre of the trunk, at the root, in the wood being of a darker colour, extending by degrees in circumference and up the stem, until the lower part of it becomes entirely deprived of vegetation, and assumes a tough and corky appearance. This extends to the whole plant, which gradually decays and dies. On the same soil the oak grows and thrives well.
The “ freestone” to which Ma White refers, is the white or grey, and may have a different effect on these trees.-W. J.
+ The ulmus montana, Sir J. E. Smith, and the most common in Scotland There are four additional species admitted into the Flora of Great Britain, which are now to be generally met with in the plantations made within the last twelve or fifteen years.-W. J.
1703, equal to a moderate tree, yet, when felled, containca eight loads of timber; and being too bulky for a carriage, was sawn off at seven feet above the butt, where it measured near eight feet in diameter.* This elm I mention, to show to what a bulk planted elms may attain; as this tree must certainly have been such, from its situation. In the centro of the village, and near the church, is a square piece of ground, surrounded by houses, and vulgarly called the Plestor. In the midst of this spot stood, in olden times, a
* The dimensions here alluded to are insignificant, when compared with those of a wych elm recorded by Mr. Evelyn, growing in Sir Walter Bagot’s park, in the county of Stafford, which, after two men had been five days felling, lay 40 yards in length, and was at the stool 17 feet diameter. It broke in the fall, 14 loads of wood : 48 in the top: yielding 8 pair of naves, 8660 feet of boards and planks; it cost 101. 178. the sawing. The whole esteemed 97 tons.—Evelyn's Sylva, ii. 189.
Pitte's elm, in the Vale of Gloucester, was, in 1783, about 80 feet high, and the smallest girth of the principal trunk was 16 feet.-W.J.
Dr. Plot mentions an elm growing on Blechington Green, which gave reception and harbour to a poor great-bellied woman, whom the inhospitable people would not receive into their houses, who was brought to bed in it of a son, now a lusty young fellow.—Plot's Oxfordshire.-W.J.
+ One of the largest wych elms in England is now growing and flourishing in the grounds of Mr. and Lady Charlotte Penrhyn, at Sheen, Surrey. Two Jundred persons lately sat down to a déjeuner under the shade of its spreading branches.Ed.
Our largest trees are quite insignificant when compared with one our present excellent bishop of New Zealand discovered in one of the Tonga Islands, a part of his diocese. In a letter to his father he mentions, that having measured it, he found it 23 fathoms, or 138 feet in circumference! Humboldt, in his very interesting work, “ Views of Nature," has a chapter on the age and size of trees, in which he mentions the pine tree, “ Taxodium distichon,” as measuring above 40 feet in diameter.-See Bohn's edition, p. 274. Other remarkable examples will be found in Loudon's Arboretum.-Ed.
I Sir W. Jardine gives the following explanation of the Plestor, in the Antiquities of Selborne. It appears to have been left as a sort of redeeming offering by Sir Adam Gordon, in olden times an inhabitant of Selborne, well known in English history during the reign of Henry III., particularly as a leader of the Mountfort faction. Mr. White says :—“As Sir Adam began to advance in years, he found his mind influenced by the prevailing opinion of the reasonableness and efficacy of prayers for the dead; and, therefore, in conjunction with his wife Constantia, in the year 1271, granted to the prior and convent of Selborne all his right and claim to a certain place, placea, called La Pleystow, in the village aforesaid, “in liberain, puram, et perpetuam elemosinam, (for free charitable purposes). This pleystow, locus ludorum, or play-place, is in a level area near the church, of about 44 yards by 36, and is known now by the name of Plestor. It continues still, as it was in old