Oxhill News

www.oxhill.com / www.oxhill.org.uk

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

August 2004


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Nature Notes

The month of Harvest: in Anglo Saxon Weodmonath – the month of weeds.

Those of you walk down Manor Lane may have noticed the terrific “roar” of bees coming from some of the trees.  They are not swarming, but feeding on the nectar of the lime tree blossoms.  This is a wonderfully fragrant blossom and bees seem to love it, indeed they get “drunk” on it and you will often seem tipsy bees crawling around the road having fallen out of the trees.  During the last war people made a rich tea “tilleul” from lime leaves which was recommended as a mild sedative.  The inner bark could also be rolled into a cigarette and smoked in the ordinary way, the effect being said to be both rapid and heady.  Apparently the young leaves make a good sandwich filling tasting like honey-coated lettuce leaves due to the aphids sweet excretions! And the small round fruits are just about edible and have a curious cocoa-like taste.  In the late nineteenth century a French chemist tried to patent a chocolate substitute made from a ground up mixture of lime flowers and fruits.

Today we take honey very much for granted, but in the past honey had many uses.  It was used to preserve natural materials and foods from meat to leather, mixed with powdered gold and used as a paint to decorate early porcelain, blended with natural pigments and oil to produce “oil paint”, and not forgetting the alcoholic beverage mead, made by fermenting a mixture of honey and water.  The words “bee” and “honey” crop up in many place names and it would seem south Warwickshire has more than its fair share:  Honiley (a wood where honey was obtained), Honeybourne (stream where honey could be collected), Honington (homestead where honey was obtained), and just into Worcestershire, Beoley (bee wood).

I was very pleased to see at the far end of Manor Lane the other day four young pheasants that scurried out of my way into the undergrowth.  These were wild pheasants, unlike the 20 million birds that are reared and then released for shooting, forming part of a major rural industry.  The wild bred birds are far more wily than their hand-reared cousins and can survive for quite a few years, and an old male bird will be distinguished by his big ear tufts and long spurs that can grow up to 1˝ inches.  The pheasant was introduced to Britain by the Romans and it is likely that they kept them rather like we keep chickens in pens for domestic use.  Their bones have been found in Roman excavations.

We have recently made several visits to the vet with our cat Frank who injured his head in fight some months ago and had a wound that kept coming back.  The vet said that the poison lies dormant under the skin after the wound has healed and then re-erupts.  I came across this from Edward Topsell’s History of Four-footed Beasts 1607.  “The Flesh of Cats can seldom be free of poison, by reason of their daily food, eating Rats, Mice, Wrens, and other birds which feed on poison: and above all the brain of the cat is most venomous, for it being above all measure dry, stoppeth the animal spirits, by reason whereof memory faileth, and the infected person falleth into a Phrensy.  In Spain they eat cats, but first of all take away their head and tail, and hang the flesh a night or two in the open air to exhale the poison of it, then finding the flesh to be almost as sweet as a coney.”

I have assured Frank he is quite safe – as long as he doesn’t go to Spain for his holidays!

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: August 03, 2004