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Nature Notes: The Selborne Society's Magazine.

No. 10.

OCTOBER 15, 1890.

Vol. I.


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HE ever-shortening days remind us distinctly that the days of summer are being rapidly left behind


and that winter is coming on apace.

The boisterous vigour of March ; April smiling through its tears ; May so full of promise ; the glorious months of June, July, and August, the fruitful September—have all received at many hands due recognition of their charms, while December brings with it year after year the joys of home life, the reunion of the family, the angels' song of peace and goodwill to men. As to January and February, October and November, the general feeling appears to be that they are periods to be lived through as endurably as may be, but that toleration is as much as they may hope for: the lyre of the poet is unstrung and as effectually packed away till the longer days as the cricket bats and lawn tennis paraphernalia.

This lack of appreciation springs we think, from the fact that so many of the writers and others who mould public opinion are dwellers in the town. No one who has not lived the year round far from the smoke, busy traffic and bustle of city life, can at all realize that the sky may be as blue in January as in June; while the snow, instead of being the foul mixture that is such an unmitigated nuisance in big towns, is spread over everything in a broad sheet of glittering whiteness that is almost dazzling in its purity, while at other times in the clear atmosphere of the country, when every twig of tree and bush is laden with hoar frost, it is a peep into veritable fairyland.

The nature-lover finds that no season of the year is without its attractiveness, and the autumn days, as they merge through October into winter, bring with them their special charm. The keener “bite” in the air has a tonic power of exhilaration that makes the sharp exercise at least as pleasant as the more leisurely stroll beneath the burning sun of July, and on every side we may still encounter objects of interest.

Though we may find various species of fungi all through the summer, they are especially characteristic of autumn, and no one who has allowed indifference or prejudice to blind his eyes can have any notion of the variety and beauty of the forms they assume: some are purely white, and like branching coral; others have their branches an intense orange yellow; others again have their disks as strong a scarlet as a guardsman's tunic; while the great majority are of more subdued colour and of every possible tint of yellow, russet, purple, and brown to black. Far more of these than is at all generally realized have edible value, and tons of despised “ toadstools ” that would supply wholesome food, perish unregarded each recurring autumn. The white coral-like Clavaria, for instance, that we have referred to is not "a thing of beauty alone, but is, when stewed with a little ham and parsley, and seasoned with a touch of pepper and salt, as dainty a dish as need be set before the most exacting of gourmands. Fungi vary in form and size as much as in colour, and may be looked for in almost every possible position-some nestling among the long grass and dying bracken, some standing boldly erect on the open ground, others springing from decayed wood and fallen timber, and others again on lofty tree trunks. Almost all quickly perish and lose their beauty after gathering, and though there is no more charming ornament in a country house than a large plateau laden with various kinds embedded in moss, the charm is a very shortlived one.

October, again, is the time when the changing tints of autumn foliage are in perfection. The strength of colour in a beech wood is something entirely beyond representation or description; no pigments in the artist's box can reach the intensity of its orange in the sunlight, no descriptive epithet convey any idea of its wonderful beauty. The autumn tints of many trees are suggestive of decay and a falling away from their summer charm, but the beech, instead of fading tamely out, is even more beautiful in October than when clothed in its robe of summer verdure. The variation of tint in the woodlands is very great; each tree, each shrub, each plant has its own colour. The maple will be found a mass of tawny yellow, the black bryony a trail of bronzed purple, the herb Robert a clump of crimson. We do not of course imply that no two different plants we can find are of the same tint, nor that each plant always has its own livery. The maple does not vary to purple any more than the ripening wheat does, and anyone who has noticed the matter carefully could name all the trees and bushes in a hedgerow half a mile away by their differences of autumnal tint. While the nuts and blackberries have been mostly sought out, the hedges of October are laden with other fruit—the rich hips of the wild roses, the clustering berries of the hawthorn, the dark purple bunches of elderberries, the long festoons of the hop and of the red-berried bryony, the fruits of the guelder rose, holly, privet, the dogwood and many others, and even when the frost and the

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wind together have stripped the foliage away, the fruits ordinarily remain undisturbed, and here and there the curious teazel-heads, dried and dead, stand boldly out from the lower herbage.

Though the fields yellow with charlock and scarlet with poppies are now but memories of the past sunny days, and even the graceful foxglove has expended itself to its last bell, a botanical ramble in October is not by any means a hopeless quest. To

say nothing of the beautiful meadow saffron, or autumn crocus, that may occasionally be found—and which if found at all will generally be in profusion—there are many of the summer flowers that still linger on, flowers perhaps that when in their summer abundance we passed by almost unheeded, but which now are fully appreciated. In looking over past records we find amongst many other October gatherings the upright crowfoot, the creeping crowfoot, the ordinary red poppy and the wild mignonette, the rock rose, the white and red campions, the meadow crane's bill, the dove's foot and the herb Robert, furze, the purple clover, the burnet-saxifrage, the fools' parsley, lady's bedstraw, field scabious, bur-marigold, mallow, chamomile, pimpernel, eyebright, forget-me-not, borage, hare-bell, fumitory, shepherd's purse, wood violet, avens, stork's bill, bush vetch, agrimony, daisy, meadowsweet, silverweed, tormentil, honeysuckle, milfoil, nipplewort, dandelion, white and purple dead nettle, groundsel, ragwort, black knapweed, sowthistle, clustered bell flower, centaury, bindweed, comfrey, mullein, and toad flax. To these many others could readily be added, and only a feeling of respect for the patience of our readers prevents our multiplying examples in this catalogue of names. We have even found a belated dogrose flower now and then-we see note of a specimen gathered on October 23rd one year--while an occasional primrose at times anticipates the far-off spring, and may already be found in ficwer; our earliest record, we see, is September 15th. Of course many of these flowers are found only very exceptionally, and even when found in most sheltered positions are often wanting in the sturdiness of growth and brilliancy of colour that we should expect to find at a more seasonable time.

The swallows will mostly have gone south, but occasional specimens may be seen well into October, and while many of our birds will have left us their places will be taken by the winter migrants. We must remember that it is not emigration merely, but immigration as well—that “we welcome the coming” as well as “speed the parting guest.”

The bright sunshine also brings out several of our old summer favourites, who naturally regard hibernation as a thing that need not yet be troubled about while the days continue so pleasant, and the gardens and hedgerows so bright and attractive. The brilliant clouded-yellow butterfly, in its rich colouring of deep yellow and black, may often be seen in October, as may also the equally beautiful red admiral, the peacock, and the delicate sulphur yellow brimstone butterfly, as they fit along the hedgerows,

hover over the flower beds, and generally make the best of the mid-day warmth.

Even when, towards the end of the month, the trees grow barer and are finally stripped of their foliage, a new interest arises in the study of their ramification. Each tree is as distinct in the character of its branching as in the form of its leaves, and an oak, a beech, an ash, or an elm, are as recognisable in January as in July

An old writer declares that “he who in all things eyes a Providence shall never lack a Providence to eye,” and we may say equally that he who goes out to seek interest and beauty in nature shall never fail in his quest. As the year travels its appointed round each recurring season brings with it interest and beauty of its own.

“Could we but open and intend our eyes
We each, like Moses, should espy

E’en in a bush the radiant Deity.' The commonest weed contains within itself enough study for a lifetime, and is an epitome of all the laws of plant-growth, an autograph from the hand of the Creator, and as perfect in its fitness for its work, and in its obedience to law, as the mighty planets circling through infinite space. All times, all places, contain abundant evidence of Divine wisdom, and even the: pebble at our feet, could we but unlock all the history wrapped up in it, would carry us back to the childhood of the world, and reveal to us mighty changes in progress some few millions of years before the sons of men sprang into existence at all. Those who wander forth and find nothing to interest them, owe the loss not to nature but to themselves, while the love of nature is one of the most lasting of pleasures. In fifty years one's tastes. change in many ways, and of the things that fascinated at the beginning few remain unimpaired at the end of that period; but an appreciative love and study of nature only deepens as time goes on, and an interest once developed in this direction is. ordinarily a possession that endures and brightens the whole life.



" RESTORATION.” [We have much pleasure in printing the following letter from Mr. Thackeray Turner, who has done so much good work as Secretary of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings. In the programme of NATURE Notes we referred to this Society as being “in spirit closely akin to our own. We have the same foes to contend with, and many tastes in common. The man who loves every stone of the old abbey, beautiful even in its ruins, and reverently garners the legends of its ancient fame,

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will strive to preserve also the trees and flowers that gather round its walls, and the birds that have found in its desecrated altars * a nest where they may lay their young.'” This paragraph was written in accordance with a suggestion of Mr. G. A. Musgrave, to whom the Selborne Society owes its being. Mr. Musgrave has always contended that our Society should number among its objects the preservation for the reasonable use of the public of spots endeared to memory by beauty or association, and the protection of objects of antiquarian interest. At the suggestion of Mr. Musgrave (who is now co-trustee of the Society with Sir John Lubbock) words to that effect were inserted in the Rules of the Selborne Society at the last Annual Meeting. But while we are in thorough sympathy with the general aims of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, we cannot, of course, always endorse its action in the case of individual buildings, nor be responsible for the strong opinions which it sometimes expresses concerning erring “restorers."]

It appears to me that one of the chief reasons why so many ancient buildings have been and are being destroyed throughout the country, by what is called “restoration,” is that the people concerned are completely ignorant of the point of view held by the members of your most excellent Society. They fail to see the wonderful effect which nature has had upon such buildings; how she has taken them and clothed them, and made them belong to their surroundings, and become a part of the earth, giving them a delicacy and variety of colouring, and softening crude forms and textures in a manner which must make any modern builder feel that his work ought not to be judged until Time has laid his hand upon it.

How charming it is when rambling through the country to come upon a well-wooded churchyard, with its church, which has been growing under the hand of man from the time of the Conquest, or possibly long before, all covered with lichens and mosses, and the windows filled with horny-looking old glass; and on the other hand, what a shock one receives upon entering an old churchyard, such as that at Selborne, to find that the ancient church has been “restored," and in the place of lichen-covered walls and roofs, are to be found walls of newly dressed stones all neatly pointed with black mortar, new glass in all the windows, and blue or purple slates on the roofs, with perhaps a bright-red jagged tile ridge to finish the agony.

What would Gilbert White have said if he had seen this noble church in its latter days! And as far as I know, there is not left an ancient church in his neighbourhood which has not been “restored." I should like to induce Selbornians to study our ancient buildings, both ecclesiastical and domestic. So little effort is needed to make a beginning, and when once started, it will be found a most fascinating study. Let them but learn sufficient to enable them to date the different portions of a build

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