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Hature Hotes, The Selborne Society's Magazine.

No. 2.

FEBRUARY 15, 1890.

Vol. I.



ISS AGNES MARTELLI, Hon. Sec. of our Northern

Heights Branch, calls our attention to an important letter by Miss Octavia Hill, published in the Daily

Graphic of January 31, which we had already marked for reference. Miss Hill would herself have communicated with us on the subject, but for a regrettable illness, from which we trust she will speedily recover. She has done as much as any man or woman living to render the objects of the Selborne Society attainable to those living in London. There is not a movement for the preservation and securing of open spaces and public parks for the people which has not been largely indebted to Miss Octavia Hill for its success, and it would ill to refuse any support which we may be able to give her in her unselfish and arduous labours.

On the present occasion our sympathy is more than usually hearty; for Miss Hill's object is not to obtain an open space where none at present exists, but to preserve the natural features of ground already secured-features which, once taken away, can never be restored. The 265 acres of land lying between Hampstead and Highgate have been recently secured for the people, and, to a large extent, by the people.

6. The land was well-known to hundreds. It was the walk on Saturday afternoons and fine Sundays, and on Bank holidays, of numerous groups of happy pedestrians. There you might see the father leading two little children by the hand, the boys fishing for tadpoles in marsh or pond, the children filling their little hands with buttercups or sorrel. There the overworked professional man would find his quietest walk at sunset; there one might climb the hill-far from the dust of road and noise of wheels--the great city, with all its traffic and noise, lying in the distance below. Certainly the hopes of most of the donors were

that they were preserving a space which should be kept in its rural beauty for those who were least able to get far away into the real country, and who wished for something more unconventional and quieter than the London Park.”

A portion of the land, known as East Heath Park, has come into the possession of the London County Council. Before it became public property a wide road had been begun by the proprietor, when he was contemplating the letting of the land for building : but it was never completed, and was covered with grass. “ What was the amazement of those who knew the spot to find that the first act of the London County Council was to give orders for carrying this wide road to either extremity of the new land, to prolong it at both ends over the heath, and to widen a small agricultural road-practically little more than a footpath. This road is now daily being continued; it leads to no populous district, it connects not even one group of houses with the Heath. Yet the devastation it is causing is pitiable to see. The wild beauty of nature is destroyed by a formal black, wide road; the soft slopes of turf are cut away-- a formal footpath runs parallel to it. Stakes are to be seen across the Heath, marking out where it is proposed to carry even further the ghastly length of desolate road.”

It is to be hoped that the strong local protest which is being made may avert what is nothing less than a catastrophe, and certainly the very reverse of what those who subscribed to purchase the ground had in view. We heartily support Miss Octavia Hill in her protest, and only regret that our space will not allow us to reproduce this in full. The following are its concluding sentences.

" At much sacrifice this land has been rescued from building. Let us do what we can to preserve it in its full beauty. mistake to think that rural scenery is enjoyed only by the artist and literary man. Many working people have a keen appreciation of it, even some who would find it hard to put the impression into words. There are plenty of places for those who love broad roads. This land was purchased mainly for the pedestrians of all classes. It is too small to be traversed by roads, which would cut it into fragments."

It is a



OT only are animals and plants disappearing in various

parts of our land, but the quaint old legends concerning them, the ancient superstitions which throw so

much light on Comparative Mythology, the fanciful and often poetical Local Names—all these, valuable almost as the subjects they commemorate, are rapidly dying out. We



shall endeavour to secure what still lingers of this mass of oldworld tradition, and shall receive with gratitude communications from those who will note down Provincial Names of Birds and Plants and the Folk-lore, perpetually varying, and yet essentially the same, which has clustered round the animal and vegetable kingdom."

We reproduce this paragraph from “Our Programme” because we feel that the work which it recommends is one of the most useful which the Selborne Society can take up. Every dweller in the country can take part in it, and the results cannot fail to be interesting as well as useful.

In order to make the collection of local names—of animals, birds, insects, plants, fossils, or any natural object-as simple and useful as possible, it may be well to say a word or two as to the way in which it should be carried out. The limited space at our disposal, as compared with the extent of the subject, renders brevity essential; and this will be secured if our contributors will record only such names and folk-lore as have been collected by themselves, with, of course, any local information tending to the explanation of either, but with a careful avoidance of speculative derivations.*

What is wanted-whether for names or folk-lore—is an actual record of these as they exist. Take an intelligent country child for a walk, and ask it the names of the common birds, flowers, and insects which cross your path; note these down and send them to the Editors, adding place and date. If any name strikes you as especially odd, ask why the object is so called. The usual answer will be, "I don't know;" but occasionally interesting information will be elicited. If you obtain confirmation of the names from others, note this, especially when a name seems to be in general use locally. Spring and early summer are the best times for collecting names ; the revival of natural objects after their winter sleep attracts more attention than the appearance of those which come later.

Do not trouble to quote books, unless they should be of special value as bearing on local dialects. “Dear old Gerard,” who is usually cited at second or third hand, must be avoided ; and, above all, the well-known and often inexact quotations, of which many volumes of plant and animal lore mainly consist, must be entirely boycotted. In our limited space it is important to publish only what is worthy of permanent record; and if the work indicated is taken up properly by Selbornians, our pages will soon be insufficient to contain the useful information which will be sent in.

* An excellent illustration of the kind of information required is afforded by the paper printed on p. 23, which was forwarded after these lines were in type.



READ with much interest Mr. Gordon's article on the

Departure of Birds in the October number of the
SELBORNE MAGAZINE, and his suggestion that notes

should be taken as carefully of the departures as of the arrivals of our migrants. This is no doubt practicable, but I think there is a difficulty, not in compiling the record, but in drawing any conclusions from it. There is a great mystery about the migration of birds. Many theories have been put forth as to its causes and its regularity, but I think there can be no doubt that “ food” has much to do with it—at least, with the emigration, if not with the immigration, of our summer birds of passage.

With regard to arrivals in spring, these consist entirely of old birds, which are hardier and more able to take care of themselves than their progeny in autumn. It is doubtful whether these spring migrants are impelled to seek our shores through lack of food in the countries from which they come; but the migratory fever seizes them, and off they set, whatever the cause may be. It is well known that if the early arrivals find it cold here, and therefore insect life is kept back, they (the swallow tribe, certainly) disappear again for a time; still they have arrived with regularity, been seen, and noted. With the autumnal departures things are different. Here we have both old and young birds, many of the latter quite incapable of a long flight; and so long as a genial temperature keeps insects from hibernating, the food supply is kept up, and these few remain, though the main body may have gone. The consequence is that the departures extend over a considerable interval, and an observer must be constantly on the watch for a month or more for the “ last seen of any particular bird.

I may instance this in the Swallow tribe. Here they begin to congregate on my house in the last week in August, and have practically gone by the middle of September; but in 1886, I saw one single Swallow on October 22nd, and in 1887, a remarkable year, many were flying about Furness Abbey on October 7th. In 1885, at Bromley, in Kent, I saw Martins as late as November 16th. In the same year, at the same place, the Swift was seen September 8th–a late occurrence, and in the last week of September, 1878, my son shot the Alpine Swift on the north coast of Devon, several of the common species being in company with it.

I have taken the Hirundines as being birds easy of observation, but no doubt the same is true of other migrants; they must have food, and owing to some peculiarity in the season, it was there for them, so they remained late. My opinion as to this is confirmed, because, in regard to my note of the very late swal

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