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Robinson 



A Country Lane: 
its Flora and its Fauna 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 





Crmtttrg faiu: 



ITS FLORA AND ITS FAUNA. 



BY JAMES E O B I N S O N. 



" Nature never did betray 
The heart that loved her ; 'tis her privilege, 
Through all the years of this our life, to lead 
From joy to joy." WOIIDSWOUTH. 





LONDON: HAMILTON, ADAMS, & Co. 
KENDAL: Vf. F. ROBSON. 




Any profit ar';sinn fr,n !'i<< sale of this lift!? book irill be yh-en to tht 
" Carimeljell Parish Church Restoration Fund," 



ane: 






ITS FLORA AND ITS FAUNA. 



BY JAMES ROBINSON 



" Nature never did betray 
The heart that loved her ; 'tis her privilege, 
Through all the years of this our life, to letvd 
From joy to joy." WORDSWORTH. 




LONDON: HAMILTON. ADAMS, & Co. 
KENDAL: W. F. EoBSON. 



SI 



" It may be deemed unmanly, hut the wise 
Read nature like the manuscript of heaven, 
And call the flowers its poetry. Go out ! 
Ye spirits of habitual unrest, 
And read it when the fever of the world 
Hath made your hearts impatient, and, if life 
Hath yet one spring unpoisoned, it will be 
Like a beguiling music to its flow." N. P. WILT-IS. 




A COUNTRY LANE. 



NE of the pleasures enjoyed 
by a contemplative resident in 
the country is a quiet rural 
lane. Independent of its many 
attractions, you can pace to and 
fro in it, whenever you please, 
unmolested, and without being 
looked upon as an intruder. This 
is not always the case when your 
footsteps stray in other directions. 
If you happen to take an innocent 
stroll through the green fields it is 
not unlikely you may be brought 
up by a glaring notice-board, nailed 
on some conspicuous tree, giving 
you the neighbourly intimation that, if 
caught, you will be prosecuted "to the 
utmost rigour of the law." Wishful, 
perhaps, to evade such dire punition, you 
raise your eyes to the breezy uplands, and scaling the 



intermediate slope, begin to breathe the pure air of 
the heathery moorland ; but here, where you might 
think all would be free as the winds, you are met by a 
gaitered individual, armed with wand of office, in the 
shape of a double-barrelled gun, carried loosely under his 
arm, who proclaims by his presence, if not by his words, 
that you are treading on forbidden ground. But no one 
arrests your feet, and no legal threatening disturbs your 
mind, in the leafy lane. You can walk leisurely through 
it in undisturbed meditation, or calmly study nature on 
the right hand and on the left. Even a philosopher might 
find its comparative seclusion and peaceful surroundings 
favourable for the solution of abstruse problems, and the 
settlement of disputed points, religious, political, and 
social. 

It has been my good fortune to be located near a quiet 
lane, which for some years has been my habitual resort. 
It is a hard, well-formed, level road, of a mile or so in 
length, trending nearly north and south, and forming a 
connecting link between two other lanes. Parallel with it, 
but two fields-breadth distant, runs another road, which, 
for reasons I need not name, now absorbs nearly the whole 
traffic of the district, and leaves my lane almost altogether 
unfrequented by passengers, either riding or afoot. Half-way 
between the two, flows a willow-fringed river of some size, 
whose soothing murmurs, like some subdued melody, I often 
hear in my solitary walks. At no great distance, on every 
hand, agreeably wooded hills rise to a gentle elevation ; 
while in one direction may be seen the tip of one of the 
lake mountains, peering over into our happy vale, as if not 
satisfied with the rich beauties that lie at its own feet. 
The fields on either side of the lane are cultivated, and 



their features change with the changing year. In the 
spring-time the grateful eye may rest on some, smiling in 
verdurous freshness, where you may watch groups of sportive 
lambs, full of exuberant frolic, engaged in mimic fight, or 
see them racing together run 

"Adown the slope, then up the hillock climb, 
Where every molehill is a bank of thyme ; " 

while in others may be seen the plough-boy, with measured 
precision turning over the green lea in long straight furrows, 
the sound of his voice, as he cheers his docile team, falling 
in harmony with all around. In summer come the busy 
hay-makers, and their merry laugh rings pleasantly in your 
ears, as you enjoy the sweet fragrance of the new made hay. 
In autumn, the golden grain undulates to the breeze, or is 
being cut down by the ruthless reapers. While in winter 
the frost bespangles the branches in the hedge-rows, and the 
long grass, where any remains, shines like a silvery spear ; 
or, nature, pitying the condition of the naked landscape, 
brings from her wardrobe a covering of snow, and throws 
over the whole scene a gleaming robe of immaculate 
whiteness. 

One advantage which this lane possesses, is, that you may 
comfortably walk to and fro in it in nearly all seasons. For 
a considerable portion of its length it is enclosed by high 
hedges, which afford a winter's shelter and a summer's 
shade. Not far from one end is planted my humble 
dwelling, and near to the other are the ivy-clad ruins of an 
ancient hall. When I walk through it in one direction, 
I see these relics of a by-gone age, and when I pass in the 
other, 1 have the attractive vision of my own sweet home. 
Gloomy reflections on the dim past, are followed and 



corrected by pleasant thoughts of- the clear present, and 
cheerful anticipations of the future. 

"Hope rules a land for ever green." 

By dint of frequent perambulation, at all times of the 
year and at all hours of the day, I have become familiar 
with the natural garniture of the lane its flora and its 
fauna ; and I venture to think that a short description of 
some of the things which may be seen and heard in this 
peaceful by-way (a representative of many more), may 
possess an interest to those who love to regard nature even 
in her lowliest aspect, and who, in their quiet walks, can 
heartily join in the sentiment of Linnseus, and " thank God 
for the green earth." 

" Better for man, 
Were he and nature more familiar friends." 




THE BANKS. 



HOUGH the declivitous banks 
on either side of the lane are 
attractive at all seasons and 
every season has its peculiar 
attractions the time of early 
buds and blossoms is perhaps 
fraught with the greatest 
interest and the liveliest 
pleasure. The first of Flora's 
forerunners to open its tiny 
petals to the soft breath of 
early spring, and the fitful 
gleams of a February sun, is 
the Vernal Whitlow Grass 
(Draba xerna), which appears 
on a dry sunny part of the 
slope. So small is this plant, 
that but for its growing in 
patches, it would often remain 
unobserved, especially in wet 
or cloudy weather, when its small pearly flowers close up. 
The scape is about two inches high, and the narrow toothed 
leaves form a circle at the root. Next to the snowdrop it is 
perhaps the first flower of spring, and, on this account, 




as well as for beauties of its own, has a particular claim on 
our notice. Closely following in the train of this humble 
pioneer comes the common Primrose (Primula vulgaris), 

with its wrinkled 
leaves, the known 
and loved of all. 
As its salver-shaped 
blossoms (which 
h av e given their 
name to a colour) 
lighten up the grassy 
slopes of field and 
lane, bright hopes 
are awakened in the 
breasts of old and 
young, for they are a token and a pledge that sullen 
winter is at last vanquished, and that victorious spring 
soon to be crowned with garlands has taken possession of 
the earth. Worthy companion of the Primrose is the 
Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), a white star of six 
rays, with golden stamens and dark-green foliage. This is 
the Wind Flower of many lands. Profusely mingling with 
these appears the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), 
with its bright yellow flowers of eight or nine petals, whose 
praises have been so beautifully sung by Wordsworth. 
These three alone give a gay appearance to the banks ; and, 
as no school-girl, with shining morning face, passes through 
the lane, they are permitted to bud and bloom unmolested, 
and remain for a considerable time to cheer the eye and 
gladden the heart. 

But they do not remain long in sole possession of the 
banks. Early in April there are other occupants. Then 




are found small beds of the fragrant purple Ground Ivy 
(Nepeta Glec/ioma), whose many virtues made it highly 
prized by our remote ancestors. And then appears that 
emblem of constancy the Violet, ( Viola canina), which in 

some places is so 
abundant as to 
give its blue lilac 
tint to a con- 
siderable space. 
A few days later, 
and the whole 
bank, in some 
spots, is ablaze 
with the purple 
racemes of the 
Wild Hyacinth (Ayr aphis nutans), set off by its green 
and glossy linear leaves. At the same time is found the 
pendent bells of the "Wood Sorrel (Oocalis acetosella), 
formerly called Wood Sour, from the oxalic acid contained 
in its bright green triple leaves. This is a much admired 
vernal visitant, so graceful is its form, and so delicately 
beautiful its blossoms. It possesses, too, an additional 
interest in being a peculiarly sensitive plant. The white 
flowers, streaked with purple, close at the approach of rain, 
and, at night, petals and leaves alike fold up, and, 
apparently, the whole plant goes to sleep. 

Not a few eminent observers (after carefully noting the 
way in which the Wood Sorrel, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and 
others of the solar tribe, expand and contract,) have come 
to the conclusion that plants are endowed, more or less, 
with a kind of sensibility. Wordsworth, who in this view 



may be taken as a faithful representative of the poets, says, 

"And 'tis my faith that every flower, 
Enjoys the air it breathes." 

Some, indeed, go still further, and affirm that some plants 
possess a kind of memory, as is clearly shown by the 
regularity of their habits. The Goats' Beard opens at three 
in the morning, and closes before noon ; the Wild Succory 
expands at eight, and closes at four ; and the Water Lily 
also retires at the same early hour. Though these, and 
similar facts, afford ground for speculation, we may never 
be able to ascertain, (and it is, perhaps, not to our advantage 
to know) the kind or degree of feeling which causes the 
several motions in plants, or the object of their appearing 
in a particular succession. Their Maker, for some good 
reason, has appointed them their seasons and their hours. 

"The green-robed children of the spring 
Will mark the periods as they pass, 
Mingle with leaves time's feathered wing, 
And bind with flowers his silent glass." 

In April, too, may be found by the wayside, (but they 
require looking for), tufts of that meek but interesting 
plant, the Tuberous Moschatel (Adoxa moschatelina) 
The foliage is pale green, the leaves being ternate, and the 
flowers, which are yellowish green, grow in terminal heads, 
forming five sides of a cube, a blossom on each side, and 
one on the top. These, however, are not all exactly alike. 
Those on the sides have five petals and ten stamens each, 
while that on the top has only four petals and eight stamens. 
One of the names of this unassuming and delicate little 
flower is Musk Crowfoot, which has been given it on 
account of its pleasant odour, which, like that of many 



9 

others, is most perceptible in the evening. If we take the 
Moschatel as a type of many similar vegetable productions, 
the mind becomes naturally impressed with the notion that 
there is, possibly, a law of compensation running through 
the whole vegetable world, and, perhaps too, through the 
whole compass of natural existence. We know that amongst 
ourselves the loud and the showy, the self-asserting and 
unduly prominent, are, as a rule, not the wisest or the best 
of men. The gorgeous Peacock is not musical, nor is it a 
bird of much utility. The Dog Violet makes a great display, 
in conspicuous places, but the Sweet Violet is to be sought 
for, hiding amongst the green herbage. Handle the garish 
Poppy or the Dandelion, and you will find them disagreeable, 
but press the unobtrusive Moschatel, and you have a 
delightful fragrance.* 

A conspicuous object at this season, nestling close to the 
hedge-row, is the Cuckoo-pint or Arum (Arum maculatum). 
It is a stemless plant, with halberd-shaped glossy leaves, 
dotted with dark spots. The spathe is also spotted, and the 
well-known spadix is found in varying shades of green, 
yellow, or violet. The ovaries, at the root of the spadix, 
become in autumn a cluster of bright scarlet berries, which 
remain long after the leaves have decayed. They are said 
to be very poisonous. The old herbalist, Gerarde, tells us 
that the tuberous roots of the Arum make a "most pure 
and white starch." Gerarde flourished in the time of good 
Queen Bess, when starch was in much request, the roots of 
the Arum and Wild Hyacinth being used in its manufacture. 

* " Yet the Moschatel is no plebeian among plants, being cousin-german of the 
Honeysuckle and Guelder Hose, and even claiming a distant relationship through the 
aristocratic Ivy with the queenly Vine." 



10 

Magnificent ruffs, a yard wide, were in vogue in those days, 
so that the quantity required for the laundry would be 
something prodigious. 

Early in May the lane produces the pearly star-like 
blossoms of the. Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria Holostea), 
its long narrow leaves for some time previously having 
given notice of its coming. It is a very pretty flower of 
five petals, each cleft to the middle, with golden anthers, 
and a stem twelve or fifteen inches high. The Smaller 
Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea), makes its appearance 
about a month later. In May, too, we have that favourite 
the Germander Speedwell (Veronica Chamcedrys), with its' 
brilliant blue flowers, veined with a darker shade, and its 
egg-shaped wrinkled leaves. Long before the Chinese leaf 
found its way into our land, our ancestors drank Speedwell 
tea. The infusion was said to strengthen and refresh the 
frame. It is by no means.an unpalatable beverage, though 
it might not now be approved of as a daily drink, by a 
committee of lady connoisseurs. We also find at this time 
scattered here and there, solitary specimens of the Cuckoo- 
flower (Cardamine pratensis), with its pale lilac or pinky 
flowers. 

In June, the Red Campion (Lychnis diurna), appears 
in great force, bearing loose panicles of blossoms, varying 
slightly in tint, according to situation and age ; while its 
relative the White Campion (Lychnis vespertina), is in 
less abundance and solitary. The last emits a pleasant 
odour as the evening dews fall on its petals. Several 
of the Crane's-bills may be mentioned here : Herb 
Robert (Geranium Robertianum) ; Dove's-foot Crane's-bill, 
(Geranium molle] ; Meadow Crane's-bill (Geranium 



11 

pratense) ; Shining Crane's-bill (Geranium lucidum) ; 
and Jagged Leaved Crane's-bill (Geranium dissectum), a 
numerous family, varying, perhaps, more in foliage than in 
flower. At intervals, towering above all these to the height 
of three or four feet, rises the Purple Foxglove (Digitalis 
purpured}. The pale purple flowers are spotted within, 
and hang in spiky clusters ten or twelve inches long. But 
the whole plant is so well known as to need no description. 
It is said to have received its proper name from its 
resemblance to a thimble (digitabuluni). Very appropriate 
are most of the names of our common wayside flowers ; 
although some which have been christened by our remote 
ancestors, whose language has fallen somewhat into 
desuetude, are not always understood. If any change, 
however, should be thought of, I humbly protest against 
permitting scientific botanists having any part or share in 
bringing it about. The matter should be left entirely to a 
conclave of poets, who would prove most efficient botanical 
nomenclators. As a proof of their appreciative qualities, 
take as an example what old Cowley says of the Digitalis : 

"The foxglove on fair Flora's hand is worn, 
Lest, while she gather flowers, she meet a thorn." 

As the summer advances, some rough stony places 
produce the Yellow Toad Flax (Linaria vulgaris), 
which, next to the Foxglove, is perhaps the most imposing 
plant in the lane. The pale yellow spurred flowers are in 
dense spikes ; and its narrow, grass-like leaves, are pale 
green. This, as well as the Foxglove, still finds a place in 
our Pharmacopoeias, but great care should be exercised in 
the use of it. Then we have the Silver Weed (Potentilla 



12 

anserina), growing on the edge of the hard road, with 
yellow flowers and beautiful downy leaves; the Wood 
Betony (Betonica officinalis), with interrupted spike of 
bright purple flowers; the White Dead Nettle (Lamium 
album) ; and the Hedge Woundwort (Stachys syhatica). 
The two last are pretty and tempting objects, but it is 
better not to give them a place in your gathered bouquet, 
as they do not improve on a closer acquaintance. 

One more plant, plentiful in the lane, demands a short 
notice, as well for its great beauty, as for its historical 
associations. This is the Perforated St. John's Wort 
(Hypericum perforatum). It has a wreath of golden 
flowers, growing on a branched stem, the petals being dotted 
with black. The leaves, which are of delicate green, are 
full of transparent spots, caused by an essential oil, which 
is also found to pervade the whole plant. Its virtues are 
well known to medical botanists. It was dedicated by the 
old monks to St. John the Baptist and they probably gave 
it its ancient name of Fuga Dcemonum, because its pos- 
session was considered a sure defence against evil spirits, 
phantoms, and ghosts. On the vigil of St. John's Day 
(Midsummer Eve) it appears to have been specially used 
for this purpose, among the other curious ceremonies of old 
observed at that time. Then, too, we are told, young girls 
gathered sprigs of the plant, and suspended them on the 
walls of their chamber. If they remained on the following 
morning fresh it foretold a prosperous marriage ; if they 
drooped and withered, a state of single blessedness. In 
Scotland, formerly, many were in the habit of carrying it 
about their persons to protect them from witchcraft and 
the evil eye, and from the designs of bad spirits. 



13 



I have mentioned the chief, but by no means all, of 
the plants that adorn the banks of the lane. They make a 
constant and varied succession, from early spring to late 
autumn, and afford a never-failing source of interest. 
Things of beauty are they all, from the largest to the 
smallest ; perfect in their colour, form, and adaptation ; 
the minutest detail of the least bearing the signet-mark of 
its Maker. I have dwelt little on their utility ; but they 
all possess some good property. The meanest of 'earth's 
products has its objects and its uses. Of the simplest weed 
it has been said : 

" That even this to please receives 
From Him who made it power ; 
I've seen an insect on its leaves, 
A bee upon its flower." 




" Here unmolested, from whatever sign 
The sun proceeds, I wander. Neither mist 
Nor freezing sky, nor sultry, checking me, 
Nor stranger intermeddling with my joy." COWPER. 



THE HEDGES. 




ITH the changing year 
comes a perceptible change 
in the foliage and fruitage 
of the fences of the lane, 
which as well as the banks, 
attract our notice, by a 
beautypeculiar to themselves. 
Even in the depth of winter, 
the various kinds of mosses 
which cover the trunks and 
roots of some ancient trees 
and parts of a decrepit wall ; 
the grey-hued lichens which 
cling to wood and stone ; the 
various shaped and different 
coloured fungi ; and (in 
sheltered spots) the still green 
fronds of the Polypody and Male Fern, afford a 
pleasing study to the lover of nature, so wonderfully 
are they adapted to the places they occupy, and so 
full of modest beauty. Simple as mosses and lichens 



15 

may appear to the ordinary looker-on, they, nevertheless, 
sustain an important part in the economy of nature. 
Geologists tell us they were the first forms of vegeta- 
tion that covered the earth. And now they are to 
be found everywhere. They are the first to spring 
up on inorganic matter, appearing mysteriously on the 
newly-quarried stone, and by their decay produce a 
vegetable fertilizing matter, thus forming a primary link 
in the chain of nature, by means of which the whole earth 
becomes clothed with a robe of vegetation. To a cursory 
glance they may appear but patches of green or grey, 'but 
a minute and close investigation reveals great variety of 
foliage, and diversity of form, and wonderful fitness of 
parts so much so that the cryptogamic student can fully 
endorse the expression of Pliny, that " Nature is nowhere 
greater than in her smallest works." Beautiful indeed 
are those soft mossy cushions placed here and there 'neath 
the hedge-row, reminding one of the description given by 
Wordsworth in his poem of " The Thorn." 

" A fresh and lovely sight, 
A beauteous heap, a hill of moss, 
Just half a foot in height. 
All lovely colours there you see, 
All colours that were ever seen ; 
And mossy network too is there 
As if by hand of lady fair 
The work had woven been ; 
And cups, the darlings of the eye, 
So deep is their vermillion dye. 
Ah me ! what lovely tints are there 
Of olive green and scarlet bright, 
In spikes, in branches, and in stars, 
Green, red, and pearly white." 



16 

It is at. this season, too, when the wintry winds have 
scattered the leaves of other trees and shrubs, that the 
glossy verdure of the clinging Ivy appears to such 
advantage. Its clusters of yellowish-green flowers are 
seen in November and December, followed by those brown 
juicy berries, the food of some of our common birds when 
other fruits are rare. Equally ornamental and attractive is 
the dark shining prickly-leaved Holly, with its clusters of 
bright red berries still used as of yore for the Christmas 
decoration of churches and homely dwellings. 

As the harsh winds of winter give place to soft vernal 
breezes it is interesting to note the changes which the hedges 
gradually undergo. Among the first " to welcome the time 
of buds, the infant year," appear the snowy blossoms of the 
Sloe or Blackthorn, (Prunus spinosa], 

" Whose early flowers anticipate the leaf," 

the bare black branches affording a striking contrast to the 
beautiful white flowers which they carry. Earlier, however, 
than the Sloe, and sometimes before the pale green catkins of 
male flowers open, the initiated look for those-crirnson stigmas 
of the hazel which give promise of the brown nuts of autumn. 
Most people know the hazel tree, with its roundish leaves of 
sober green, and many can remember some glorious day or 
days devoted to a nutting expedition ; but it is not every 
one who knows that the forked branch of this tree has been 
used from time immemorial, and is still used, as a divining 
rod ! By means of it, it is said, certain persons who possess 
the gift, can discover springs and minerals, lying hidden in 
the bosom of the earth. In Cornwall about one in forty is 



17 

accredited with this power. It is recorded that Lady Noel, 
the mother of Lord Byron, acted in this capacity, and was 
a successful diviner or douser.* 

In May the blossoms of the Sloe are succeeded by those 
of the Hawthorn (Cratcegus Oxyacantha), so universally 
known and admired. Its corymbs of white flowers studded 
with pink stamens, please alike the sense of sight and smell. 
In olden times they were much used in the May Day 
customs then observed, religious and festive, and the tree 
has been celebrated by our poets from Chaucer downwards. 
Beautiful as the hawthorn blossoms are in my lane, they 
somewhat pale before those of the Bird Cherry (Prunus 
padus), with which at this time the hedges are adorned. 
The white flowers of this pretty shrub hang in drooping 
clusters, and, like those of its rival, yield a pleasant odour. 
Bright and cheerful indeed is the lane at this season, and 
sweet the combined fragrance from flowers of bank and 
hedge, while the different shapes and variety of tints of the 
leaves are objects which the grateful eye delights to rest 
upon. 

In this month, too, may be found, climbing amongst the 
bushes, the whorled-leaves and the small wax-like flowers of 
the Sweet Woodruff (Asperula odorata). The leaves, when 

*The following is the correct mode of procedure : A hazel twig is cut just below 
where it forks ; it is stripped of its leaves, and then each branch is cut to about a foot 
in length, leaving a stump about three inches long. The fork thus prepared is to be 
held by the branches, one in each hand, the stump or point projecting forward. The 
arms of the douser hang by his 'side, but the elbows being bent at a right angle, the 
forearms are advanced horizontally. The hands are held eight or ton inches apart, 
the knuckles down, and the thumbs outwards; the ends of the branches appear 
between the roots of the thumbs and the forefingers. Thus ARMED, the operator 
walks over the ground, fully expecting when he passes over a vein of metal, or a 
hidden spring, that the fork will begin to move spontaneously in his hands. 



18 

dried, emit an agreeable perfume, like new hay, and will 
preserve this aroma for years. The name of this plant 
seems to have been, according to the old orthography, 
Woodderowffe, as we gather from the ancient rhyme handed 
down to the present day. 

" Double U double double D E 
R double U double F E." 

But it is perhaps in June that the hedges are decked 
with the greatest grace and beauty. Then appear the red 
and yellow blooms of the Honeysuckle (Lonicera 
Periclymenum), which shed their delicious fragrance all 
around. The leaves appear some months earlier; it is 
indeed, 

" The first of wilding race that weaves 
In Nature's loom its downy leaves," 

which present themselves in February or March. The 
Honeysuckle is a persevering climber, embracing and 
twining with tightening coil, round tree and shrub, thus 
well meriting its old name of Woodbine or Woodbind. 

" In spiral rings it mounts the trunk and lays 
Its golden tassels on the leafy sprays." 

In thus winding round the stem, like the Convolvulus and 
other climbers, it follows the course of the sun from east to 
west. 

Equally beautiful, and as sweetly odorous, are the 
delicate pink and white blossoms of the Wild Rose, which 
at this time brighten, at intervals, the whole length of the 
lane. In some variety or other this has been the favourite 



19 

of all times and of all countries where it flourishes. It is 
the floral badge of England, as the Thistle is of Scotland, 
and the Shamrock of Ireland. In its cultivated state 
it embellishes the bower of the palace, and the walls of the 
peasant's lowly cot ; and is emblematic alike of love, anger, 
joy, and grief. Sparsely mingled with the Wild Rose are 
found the white blossoms of the Common Guelder Rose 
( Viburnum opulus) ; while the Bramble (Rulms fruticosus) 
perseveringly asserts its claim to a favourable notice in this 
competitive flower show of the hedges. 

In July the Bitter Sweet or Woody Nightshade (Solanum 
Dulcamara), makes its appearance in a moist part of the 
hedge-row. The flowers, which are in clusters, are of a dull 
purple hue, relieved by two green spots at the base of each 
segment, while the yellow anthers meet in a point at the 
top. The egg-shaped leaves are a dull green. Altogether 
it is a peculiar looking plant, and is said to be poisonous in 
every part of it. In some places it is called Felon-wood. 

As the ummer advances the floral display of the hedges 
begins to wane ; and, gradually, the leaves turn brown, or 
yellow and sere ; and unmistakable signs of decay begin to 
manifest themselves. These losses are partly compensated for 
by the varied mellow-tinted foliage, and by the store of rich 
fruits which present a tempting feast to the wayfarer. 
Even as early as the end of July we can gather the dainty 
Strawberry; in August enjoy the delicious Wild Raspberry; 
in September and October we have an abundant supply of 
the glossy berries of the Bramble, and these months too 
bring to perfection the brown clusters of the Hazel, and the 
black fruit of the Bird Cherry and the Sloe. Thus 



20 



supplied, the haws of the Whitethorn, the scarlet hips of 
the Wild Rose, the crimson berries of the Mountain Ash, 
and the ruby clusters of the Guelder Rose, we can afford to 
leave to our feathered friends, while we avoid the bright 
red berries of the Bitter Sweet as dangerous. 




THE FAUNA. 



" Not rural sights alone, but rural sounds 
Exhilarate the spirits, and restore 
The tone of languid Nature. 
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, 

Whose notes 
Nice fingered art must emulate in vain." COWPEB. 

jjjf CONSIDERINGthe 

^^jlm privacy and shelter 

fkiffijj^R of the lane, it is 

somewhat remark- 
able that it is not 
frequented by more 
of our common birds. 
The Redbreast, the 
Dunnock, the 
Chaffinch, and the 
Wren, are frequently 
met with, but, for 
the rest, they seem 
to prefer the larger 
trees by the side of 
the river, the near 
proximity of a human 
dwelling, or even 
the dusty highway. Their supply of food, has, no doubt, 




22 

something to do with this. But though the feathered 
tribe do not frequent the lane in numbers they are 
sufficiently near for me to have the full benefit of their 
harmony. In the spring and summer the fields on each 
side abound with Larks, and their songs are an almost 
unfailing source of pleasure. One never tires of watching 
them ascend and descend, their aerial journey occupying 
sometimes ten minutes, or even more. In commencing its 
upward flight the Lark turns its head to the wind. At 
first its course seems to be somewhat irregular and 
fluttering, then with tremulous wings it cleaves the air 
rapidly, sometimes upward, sometimes slantingly or in 
circles, till, (as occurs, perhaps, oftenest in the summer), it 
reaches a height scarcely discernible to the naked eye 
although its wings, when expanded, are fourteen or fifteen 
inches across. The descent is a little more rapid, the 
motions then being exceedingly graceful, till it approaches 
the earth, when, with closed wings, it drops like a stone on 
the greensward. During the whole of this time its song 
has never ceased. It is indescribably delicious and varied. 
You are fixed to the spot, listening with all your ears, from 
the first clear notes at starting, to the fainter music which 
reaches you from its highest altitude, and again to the 
gently-increasing melody of its descent, the strain closing 
in the sweetest cadence just as it drops to its earthly 
treasures. In the plumage of the Lark we have another 
illustration of that law of compensation I alluded to in 
speaking of the Tuberous Moschatel. Among the winged 
creation, as a rule, the sweetest singers wear the plainest 
garb, as is shown by the dusky hue of this aerial warbler. 
Sober, too, is the dress of the melodious Thrush, whose rich 



23 



tenor notes, sometimes harmoniously mingled with the 
Blackbird's baritone, in the spring months, salute me, 
morning and evening, from the tall trees by the 
neighbouring river. A pair of the latter annually honour 
the lane by building their nest in the thick hedge. The 
eggs are four or five in number of a dull blue with brownish 
spots. 

That very handsome bird the Chaffinch or Spink, with 
its cheery " tweet, tweet," or "pink, pink," enlivens the 
lane during the spring and summer. A pair build their 
nest in the forked branch of a crooked Crab Tree. It is a 
model of neatness and beauty, and so skilfully placed and 
made, in its exterior, so like the bark of the tree itself, that 
even the piercing eyes of a prowling school-boy would have 
some difficulty in detecting it. It generally contains four 
or five eggs of a dullish blue, or green, with a slight 
admixture of red. The nest of the Dunnock, (which, 
though very compact, is not to be compared in 
architectural beauty or skilful concealment with that of the 
Spink) is still lower, in the thick of the hedge ; while that 
of the Redbreast is cleverly concealed in the grassy bank. 
The plaintive Yellow-hammer utters his " chit chit churr," 
during the spring, and no doubt builds somewhere in the 
vicinity. 

Amongst the occasional visitors to the lane must be 
mentioned the Blue Tit, with its brilliant plumage ; the 
Cole Tit ; the Tom Tit ; and the pretty long-tailed Tit 
the last of which comes in flocks of about a dozen (probably 
a family), and restlessly flits from tree to tree. The 
Whitethroats arrive late in the spring, and leave again 
during the summer. The Redbreast and the Wren appear 



24 



to remain in the lane all the year through. I have seen 
them there very early in the morning, and late in the evening, 
and suspect that of all small birds they are the first to rise 
and the last to retire. A bold and valorous bird is the 
Wren. To some of his deeds of daring I have been a witness. 
Often is he seen perched on the highest twig in the hedge, 
with bill extended to the utmost, pouring out his shrill 
treble. That such a volume of sound should proceed from 
such a tiny object is wonderful. Undisturbed by noisy 
traffic or juvenile foes the birds in my lane are 
comparatively tame, and apparently take little heed of my 
presence. One feathered visitor, however, seems to have a 
decided objection to my intrusion. The crested lapwings, 
which in spring and summer take possession of the fields, 
on each side, continually cross and recross the road, and 
utter unceasingly their querulous " peewits." 

But few quadrupeds are to be found in the lane. 
Occasionally a Squirrel is seen, perhaps frightened from the 
Larch Planting not far off, or it may be on a foraging 
expedition. When disturbed, it runs along the hedge with 
such surprising agility that it is difficult to get a good sight 
of it. If less hunted and persecuted these innocent and 
beautiful creatures would, no doubt, become much tamer, 
and impart great pleasure in exhibiting their rapid and 
graceful motions. 

Sometimes, on a summer's evening, a solitary traveller 
may be met with in the shape of a Hedgehog. On such 
occasions he is generally trotting along at the apparent rate 
of four or five miles an hour it may be on a visit to 
a friendly neighbour, or on the way from his day's sleeping 
quarters to his night's feeding ground. The food of the 



25 

hedgehog is said to consist principally of worms, slugs, 
snails, and frogs, and some kinds of grass and roots for 
procuring which his nose is well adapted. He is said too to 
have & penchant for hen's eggs, when the nest happens to be 
within his reach an unfortunate partiality, which not 
unfrequently brings on the purloiner immediate execution, 
and is probably the only cause of a bad name being given 
to the whole family. When met with on the road he 
usually stops and fixes his glassy eyes upon you, but if not 
rudely interfered with does not change his position. It is 
only when his instinct tells him that he has to do with 
deadly foes human or canine that he turns in his crested 
snout, and, rolling himself up, presents to his assailant a 
round ball of acuminated spikes. 

Passing down the lane on an early autumn morning on 
almost every bush may be seen the radiated circle of the 
Geometric Spider ; while on the grass below, glittering in 
the dew, hangs in profusion the silken webs of the Gossamer. 
The latter, it is said, has the art of weaving a balloon with 
threads from its own body, by aid of which it can sail 
through the air. In this way are to be accounted for the 
slender lines we often meet with, stretched from hedge to 
hedge, or tree to tree. 

In summer months the lane is rich in insects of different 
shapes and colours, a description of which is not within the 
compass of my feeble pen. It is interesting to watch 
their eccentric movements, from the rapid flight of the 
gorgeous Dragon-fly down to the mazy dance of the 
smallest Gnat. In the day Butterflies of various hues 



26 

are flitting fitfully about, and in the evening delicately 
tinted moths hover over the grass. During the sunny 
hours of the day the Honey-bee, on its way to flowery 
pastures or purple heaths, alights on the clover or 
the vetch ; the Humble-bee hides itself in the foxglove's 
bell ; and the yellow ground Wasp gathers sweets wherever 
it can find them. The nest of the first, and the vespiaries 
of the last-named insect-architects, are in the sloping bank, 
where, undisturbed, they lay up a winter store, or prepare 
cells for their eggs and larvae. Often very different is 
the fate of those who have planted their colonies in 
the banks by the side of the more public highway. No 
sooner are they discovered than an immediate process of 
assault and battery is commenced. A troop of merciless 
boys, armed with match, brown paper, and leafy boughs, 
endeavour to smoke them out, destroy them as they issue, 
and (in the case of the Humble-bees) rifle their homes of 
their treasured hoards. If they know it, not an insect 
will be left living. Melancholy sight for those workers, 
who, with tired wings, return from their distant labour, 
heavy-laden with ricnes for their cherished commonwealth ! 

The wilful cruelty of boys towards innocent animals, 
birds, and insects, is a fact not pleasant to dwell upon. It 
seems to be an inherent disposition, and much too prevalent 
to be gainsaid. The one who shows his unerring aim by 
killing a harmless sparrow, or can manage to toss a stone into 
a thrush's nest, (built with great care and patient industry 
high in the fork of a tall tree), has something to boast of ? 
and can strut amongst his fellows a hero for that day. A 
few lessons on common humanity, taught at school among 
the rest of their elementary training, might perhaps be 



27 

serviceable. Some good might be done if every boy only 
learned by heart the two lines of Wordsworth which tell us 

" Never to blend our pleasure or our pride 
"\Yith sorrow of the meanest thing that feels." 



The reader will have seen that my lane has its attractions 
in all seasons of the year, and it offers an agreeable walk at 
all hours of the day. It is pleasant to pass through it when 
the early morning brings the dew-drops on its dusky wings, 
and the tremulous stars give place to the rising sun ; when 
the flowers begin to unfold their delicate petals to his warm 
embrace, and, led by the lark, the feathered choir unite in 
a harmonious welcome. Pleasant, too, to walk through it 
at the hour of noon, under the protecting shade of its leafy 
hedge. Then nature reposes; the birds are silent; the 
meek-eyed oxen lie under the trees by the river's side ; and 
all is still, save the droning of some industrious bee, as it 
passes from flower to flower. But pleasantest hour of all 

" When conies still evening on, and twilight grey 
Hath in her sober livery all things clad." 

It is a time for pure and tender emotions. Then the 
lovely flowers close their petals and droop their heads in 
meek obeisance ; and the grateful warblers' last evensong 
falls on the ear with peculiar sweetness. And then a 
hallowed stillness reigns. Nature is at her devotions. Dim 
and dimmer becomes the spire of the village church. The 
ruins of the baronial hall, gloomy at all times, now assume 



28 

a gloomier aspect still ; and the ancient Oak by the three 
road ends, worn by the weight of years to an almost 
branchless stump", becomes invested with unearthly import. 
I^ter still, and as you pass through the dark shadows of 
night, your footsteps are guided by the mellow light of the 
Glowworm's lovelit lamp ; and you hear the distant harsh 
"jar-r jar-r" of the Night Hawk, and the "toowhit, 
toowhoo " of the wakeful Owl. 




W. F. ROBSON, PRINTER, KENDAL. 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY 

Los Angeles 
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 



rm L9-50m-4,'61(B8994s4)444 




THK 
HJVIFERSITY 

LOS ANG2i. 



QH 

81 Robina on - f 

R563c Country "lane: | 
its floi*a and 



its fauna 




QH 
81