« ZurückWeiter »
consists e tirely of sand, covered with heatb and fern; but is somewhat diversified with hills and dales, without having one standing tree in the whole extent.
In the buttoins, where the waters stagnate, are many bogs, which formerly abounded with subterraneous trees; though Dr. Plot says positively,* " that there never were any fallen trees hidden in The mosses of the southern counties.” But he was mistaken; for I myself have seen cottages on the verge of this wild district, whose timbers consisted of a black hard wood, looking like oak, which the owners assured me they procured from the bogs by probing the soil with spits, or some such instruments; but the peat is so inuch cut out, and the moors have been so well examined, that none has been found of late.t Besides the oak, I have also been shown pieces of fossil-wood, of a paler colour, and softer nature, which the mhabitants called fir; but, upon a nice examination, and trial by fire, I could discover nothing resinous in them:
* See his Hist. of Staffordshire. t Old people have assured me, that, on a winter's morning, they have discovered these trees, in the bogs, by the hoar frost, which lay longer over the space where they were concealed, than on the surrounding morass. Nor does this seem to be a fanciful notion, but consistent with true philosophy. Dr. Hales saith, “ That the warmth of the earth, at some depth under ground, has an influence in promoting a thaw, as well as the change of the weather from a freezing to a thawing, state, is manifest, from this observation, viz., Nov. 29, 1731, a little snow having fallen in the night, it was, by eleven the next morning, mostly melted away on the surface of the earth, except in several places in Bushy Park, where there were drains dug and covered with earth, on which the snow continued to lie, whether those drains were full of water or dry ; as also where elm-pipes lay under ground : a plain proof this, that those drains intercepted the warmth of the earth from ascending from greater depths below them; for the snow lay where the drain had more than four feet depth of earth over it. It continued also to lie on thatch, tiles, ana the tops of walls.”—See Hales’s Hæmastatics, p. 360. Quere, Might not such observations be reduced to domestic use, by promoting the discovery of old obliterated drains and wells about houses ; and, in Roman stations and camps, lead to the finding of pavements, baths, and graves, and other hidden relics of curious antiquity ?
I have now in my possession a snuff-box, formerly the property of Sir Walter Scott, on which is the following inscription : "Oak found near Gordon Castle, twenty feet below the surface of the ground." From the great age of the wood, it has the appearance of having nearly turned to a substanco resembling agate. In a bog in Staffordshire, with which I am well acquainted, buge oak trees, at a considerable depth, might be found, from the snow having melted away on the suriace.-Ed.
and, therefore, rather suppose that they were parts of a willow or alder, or some such aquatic tree. *
This lonely domain is a very agreeable haunt for many sorts of wild fowls, which not only frequent it in the winter, but breed there in the summer; such as lapwings, snipes, wild-ducks, and, as I have discovered within these few years, teals. Partridges in vast plenty are bred in good seasons
verge of this forest, into which they love to make excursions ; and in particular, in the dry summer of 1740 and 1741, and some years after, they swarmed to such a degree, that parties of unreasonable sportsmen killed twenty and sometimes thirty brace in a day.t.
But there was a nobler species of game in this forest, now extinct, which I have heard old people say abounded much before shooting flying became so common, and that was the heath-cock, or black game. When I was a little boy, I recollect one coming now and then to my father's table. The last pack remembered was killed about thirtyfive years ago ; and within these ten years one solitary grey hen was sprung by some beagles, in beating for a hare. The sportsman cried out, " A hen pheasant !” but a gentle man present, who had often seen black game in the north of England, assured me that it was a grey
* The remains of trees are found in most of the marshes in Great Britain; but the mosses in the north of England, and all those of Scotland, contain trees often of immense size. These are generally oak, birch, different willows, or alder, and the Scotch fir, pinus sylvestris. Being embedded to considerable depths, they are sometimes in a perfect state, and completely baturated with the soil in which they lie. In the Highlands, the Scotch fir abounds, and retains so much resin as to be used for lights during winter, for which purpose it is dug out, dried and split into narrow lengths.-W.J. + Black game may now be found in the forest, and a few grouse.-Ed.
Black game have increased greatly in the southern counties of Scotland end north of England within the last few years. It is a pretty genoral opinion, though an erroneous one, that they drive away the red grouse; the two species require very different kinds of cover, and will never interfere. It is to be regretted that some of our extensive and wealthy northern proprietors do no attempt the introduction of the wood grouse ; extensive pine or birch forests, with quiet, would be all the requisites; and the birds themselves, or their young, could be very easily obtained, and at a trifling expense. In Mr. J. Wilson's Zoological Illustrations, there is an excellent plate of the tetrao urophasianus of North America, a very handsome species, which, with some others lately discovered by Mr. Douglas, might be introduced into this country, and forme
Nor does the loss of our black game prove the only gaf in the Fauna Selborniensis, or “ Natural History of Sel. borne ;" for another beautiful link in the chain of beings is wanting, -I mean the red-deer,* which, toward the beginning of this century, amounted to about five hundred head, and made a stately appearance. There is an old keeper, now alive, named Adams, whose great-grandfather (mentioned in a perambulation taken in 1635), grandfather, father, and self, enjoyed the head keepership of Wolmer Forest in succession, for more than an hundred years. This person assures me, that his father has often told him that Queen Anne, as she was journeying on the Portsmouth road, did not think the Forest of Wolmer beneath her royal regard. For she came out of the great road at Liphock, which is just by, and reposing herself, on a bank, smoothed for that purpose, lying about half a mile to the east of Wolmer Pond, and still called Queen's Bank, saw with great complacency and satisfaction the whole herd of reddeer brought by the keepers along the vale before her, consisting then of about five hundred head. A sight this, worthy the attention of the greatest sovereign! But he farther adds, that, by means of the Waltham blacks, or, to use his own expression, as soon as they began blacking, they were reduced to about fifty head, and so continued decreasing till the time of the late Duke of Cumberland. It is now more than thirty years ago that his highness sent down a huntsman, and six yeoman prickers, in scarlet jackets laced with gold, attended by the stag-hounds, order
a fine addition to our feathered game. The little American partridge, the ortyx borealis of naturalists, has been introduced, and is now plentiful, in some counties in England.—W.J.
* Red deer are still to be found in the New Forest, and Her Majesty's buck-hounds are sent there every year to hunt them. Oue stag a few years ago found near Lyndhurst was taken not far from Salisbury.-ED.
+ The following curious fact may be mentioned with respect to red deer, as proving their attachment to favourite localities. The late Duke of Athcll, wishing to increase the stock of red deer in his park, took the opportunity of a very severe winter to draw the deer from their hills and mountains. This Fras done by scattering food in a line to the park, and a great extent of the paling of it was removed. When hunger had thus compelled the deer to enter it, toils were put up, the fencing was replaced and the deer enclosed. They pined away, however, and in two years not one was left alive. Ed.