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date, I am not qualified to give the mean quantity.* I only know that
From May 1, 1779, to the end of the year there fell
Jan. 1, 1780, to Jan. 1, 1781
The village of Selborne, and large hamlet of Oakhanger, with the single farms, and many scattered houses along the verge of the forest, contain upwards of six hundred and seventy inhabitants.
We abound with poor; many of whom are sober and industrious, and live comfortably in good stone or brick cottages, which are glazed, and have chambers above stairs ; mud buildings we have none. Besides the employment from husbandry, the men work in hop-gardens, of which we have many; and fell and bark timber. In the spring and summer the women weed the corn; and enjoy a second harvest in September by hop-picking. Formerly, in the dead months they availed themselves greatly by spinning wool, for making of barragons, a genteel corded stuff, much in vogue at that time for summer wear; and chiefly manufactured at Alton, a neighbouring town, by some of the people called Quakers; but from circumstances this trade is at an end.* The inhabitants enjoy a good share of health and longevity; and the parish swarms with children.
* A very intelligent gentleman assures me (and he speaks from upwards of forty years' experience), that the mean rain of any place cannot be ascertained till a person has measured it for a very long period. “If I had only measured the rain," says he, "for the four first years, from 1740 to 1743, I should have said the mean rain at Lyndon was 164 inches for the year; if from 1740 to 1750, 18} inches. The mean rain before 1763 was 204 inches, from 1763 and since 254 inches, from 1770 to 1780, 26 inches. If only 1773, 1774, and 1775 had been measu
asured, Lyndon mean rain would have been called 32 inches."
SHOULD I omit to describe with some exactness the forest of Wolmer, of which three-fifths perhaps lie in this parish, my account of Selborne would be very imperfect, as it is a district abounding with many curious productions, both animal and vegetable; and has often afforded me much entertainment both as a sportsman and as a naturalist.
The royal forest of Wolmer is a tract of land of about seven miles in length, by two and a half in breadth, running nearly from north to south, and is abutted on—to begin to the south, and so to proceed eastward—by the parishes of Greatham, Lysse, Rogate, and Trotton, in the county of Sussex; by Bramshot, Hedleigh, and Kingsley. This royalty consists entirely of sand covered with heath and fern; but is somewhat diversified with hills and dales, without having one standing tree in the whole extent. In the bottonis, 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 much cut out, and the moors have been so well examined, that none has been found of late.* Besides the oak, I have also been shown pieces of fossil wood of a paler colour and softer nature, which the inhabitants called fir: but, upon a nice examination, and trial by fire, I could discover nothing resinous in them; and therefore rather suppose that they were parts of a willow or alder, or some such aquatic tree.
* Since the passage above was written, I am happy in being able to say that the spinning employment is a little revived, to the no small comfort of the industrious housewife.
+ See his History of Staffordshire.
* 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 are concealed than in 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. 29th, 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, and the tops of walls.”—See Hale's Hæmastatics, p. 360. QUERY, 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 ?
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 on the verge of this forest, into which they love to make excursions; and in particular, in the dry summers 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.
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, black-game, or grouse.
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 thirty-five years ago ; and within these ten years one solitary grey hen was sprung by some beagles in beating for
The sportsmen cried out “A hen pheasant ! but a gentleman present, who had often seen grouse in the north of England, assured me that it was a grey hen.
Nor does the loss of our black game prove the only gap in the Fauna Selborniensis; 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 greatgrandfather (mentioned in a perambulation taken in 1635) grandfather, father, and self, enjoyed the head keepership of Wolmer Forest in succession for more than a 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 Lippock, 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 red deer 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 yoeman-prickers, in scarlet jackets laced with gold, attended by the stag-hounds; ordering them to take every deer in this forest alive, and to convey them in carts to Windsor. In the course of the summer they caught every stag, some of which showed extraordinary diversion : but in the following winter, when the hinds were also carried off, such fine chases were exhibited as served the country people for matter of talk and wonder for years afterwards. I saw myself one of the yeoman-prickers single out a stag from the herd, and must confess that it was the most curious feat of activity I ever beheld, superior to anything in Mr. Astley's riding-school. The exertions made by the horse and deer much exceeded all my expectations ; though the former greatly excelled the latter in speed. When the devoted deer was separated from his companions they gave him, by their watches, law, as they called it, for twenty minutes; when, sounding their horns, the stop-dogs were permitted to pursue, and a most gallant scene ensued.