Saturday, 7 December 2013
December...in the Countryside
Here is a charming, and I believe old, (uncredited) description of December in the English countryside, in 'The Complete Country Bizarre', edited by Andy Pittaway and Bernard Scofield, 1976:
"Although the year grows old and the December days shorter, one still finds little adventures along the woodcraft trail. Even before dawn the farmyard cocks sound reveille and the rooks leave their dormitory to seek breakfast in the meadowland. When the blackbird gets out of bed, he chatters like an old gentleman with a nasty temper.
In the field by the wood are a motley company of birds, which include buntings, bramblings, chaffinches, greenfinches, and a detachment of sparrows. On the stubble, titmice give an acrobatic display on some dried stalks, and larks find something that suits their fancy on a piece of old ploughed land. Linnets wander from field to field in a restless nomadic manner. By the brook a pied wagtail says 'Chizzit, chizzit' when disturbed. From the wood an owl hoots before he goes to sleep and a jay is like a fleeting coloured shadow. Along Blackberry Lane the denseness of the bushes make a safe and warm harbourage for the birds, and the pine trees shelter a number of goldcrests. The rickyard also becomes a guest house in severe weather, and the grey church tower is a sanctuary for jackdaw and barn-owl.
Most of the thrush family are fond of berries, and the fruit of the yew attracts the mistlethrush while fieldfares visit the holly. According to old country lore, a heavy crop of berries foretells hard weather ahead.
The ploughman moves up and down the tawny acres with a plodding gait, which he occasionally breaks at the corner for a brief rest. On the broken soil, jackdaws, rooks, hooded crows, seagulls, plovers and robins find a variety of food.
Holly is cheerful with red berries, bramble shows a trace of green, dogwood is dyed red, wild clematis is pretty with grey-white plumes, and mistletoe is beautiful with pearl-white berries.
Trees are full of colour when caught in a loop of sunlight. Oak and beech buds shade brown, the ash is decorated with points of blackish-green, and limes glint red.
Already some shepherds have completed their pens, in readiness for the lambs that may arrive before the month is out. In the pastures sheep wait for fodder at the troughs, a seasonal picture of the month. Against a background a rural sounds the hum of the threshing-machine comes over the fields and will continue until sundown.
At nightfall winter moths will flock about the shepherd's lantern as he goes to the fold. The continuous hoot of brown owls in the moonlight mingles with the dog fox's bark as he journeys through deep shadows in search of a mate..."
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