Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

August 2003


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Nature Notes

August is the month of harvest, named in honour of the deified Roman emperor Augustus.

1 August is Lammas Day – Lammas or ‘loaf-mass’ being the festival of harvest’s beginning when the first cut sheaf or corn, or bread made from it, was blessed and offered in churches.  Lammas Lands used for growing early crops or hay were then thrown open for common grazing until the next Spring.

Now that the hay has been cut, I have been walking early in the morning in the long meadow that lies behind the church that has a footpath that runs to Tysoe – an excellent field for spotting all sorts of wildlife.  A few minutes after entering the field across the footbridge, my attention was drawn to a large female Fallow deer, a doe, running away from me across the adjacent stubble, and when I turned the slight corner I saw ahead of me another doe and her young fawn.  She jumped the hedge in a single leap and was away, but unfortunately the fawn was unable to do the same and started running up and down bleating.  At this point I quickly retraced my footsteps and on reaching the cover of the bridge I looked back and saw one of the does has stopped and was looking back, so I was confident that both would soon be reunited.

I have now seen Muntjac, Fallow and Roe deer in or around this field on several occasions.  The Muntjac originated from the forests of south-east Asia and was introduced to Woburn in 1894.  They started escaping and by the 1920s were starting to be seen in the wild.  They are the smallest of the deer standing no more than 20 inches high.  The Fallow was probably introduced by either the Romans or the Normans, opinion favouring the Normans.  The name ‘fallow’ means ‘pale-coloured’ and was first used in the fifteenth century.  They stand between three and four feet at the shoulder.

The Roe deer is a native of Britain, the male being a buck (note: ‘stag’ applies only to Red deer) and the female a doe and the young are kids.  This reddish brown deer stands about 27 inches at the shoulder and is noticeable by its very large ears, with the male having very small antlers.  Ten to fifteen years ago Roe were not seen in the Midlands, but like the others, they are now spreading.  Unlike Fallow which tends to be a herding deer, Roe are more solitary and are often seen in pairs.  Roe is considered to produce the finest venison.

Talking of food, did you know that August 10 is St Lawrence’s Day: the cooks’ festival and the saint of our own church.  St Lawrence was a Spanish deacon, supposedly martyred at Rome in 258 AD by being roasted on a grid-iron.  He is thus the patron saint of confectioners, bakers and cooks.  He was said to be a “round jolly fellow” and during his torture allegedly said “Turn me over, I am done this side”!!

Note to David Knight:  maybe I could do a fresco of St Lawrence being griddled on one of the church walls, or perhaps Oxhill should have a food festival in celebration – that would be in better taste!

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: January 02, 2004