Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2006

This months News



Nature Notes

The Roman Aperilis – from aperio, to open or display: the month when the earth opens.

As I write these nature notes, it is the spring equinox and the first day of Spring, and as if on cue, the sun has shone all day.  Driving back home through Honington towards Whatcote I noticed two “mad March hares” cavorting round the large field that rises to your right as you leave Honington.  I pulled over to watch, and for a good 15 minutes they stood on hind legs, vaulted over each other, ran round in circles, and dashed in all directions.  They were only about 100 metres from me and every so often one would stand and look towards me.  The sun was setting behind me and for split seconds the sun would catch in their eyes and flash back at me like car headlights.  It was quite magical.  After a period of vigorous play the hare that I presumed was the female would flop down and recline on her side in a suggestive manner, while the male for his part seemed to take on a nonchalant attitude – or was it vice versa?

“The common sort of people suppose that hares are one year male and one year female … yet hunters object that there be some which are only females and no more; but no male that is not also a female, and so they make him an hermaphrodite.”  Edward Topsell – History of Four-footed Beasts 1607.

While watching the hares, my attention was also drawn by a movement in the grass just yards from when I had parked – it was a pair of Red-legged Partridge, or “Frenchmen”, except by their behaviour this was a Frenchman and a Frenchwoman!!  At this point I took my leave and left nature to pursue its natural path, but there was more to come.

On approaching Oxhill from Whatcote there is a wonderful old pasture field on the left and my eye was caught by a large white shape – a Barn Owl – perhaps one of Oxhill’s breeding pair.  It was moving towards me, so once again I pulled up and parked in the gateway.  The owl quartered the field backwards and forwards, flying just a couple of metres above the ground.  I sat motionless as it approached the gateway, then when only about 10 metres away it dropped like a stone and I could clearly see that it had made a kill.  I watched as it threw its head back and a large mouse was gulped down head first, the tail slowly vanishing down the owl’s throat.  My usual five-minute drive from Honington to Oxhill had taken over half an hour, but what a wonderful half hour.

April 25 – St Mark’s Day – cowslips now blooming.  Despite their name, a polite form of “cow slops” or “cow pats” from which they were believed to be engendered, cowslips have long been used as an aid to beauty:

“An ointment being made cowslips take away spots and wrinkles of the skin, sun-burning, and freckles, and adds beauty exceedingly” Culpepper’s Herbal 1653.

“The flowers of cowslips conserved in sugar and also the stilled water thereof are very good for them that are weak and very low brought by long sickness, and it hath a singular property to comfort the heart” William Turner Herbal 1568.

“Three or four handfuls of cowslip flowers cast into a very hot bath, take away tiredness” Mrs Harrington’s Book 18th century.

The population of Oxhill is beautiful enough, so please don’t pick any cowslips; just admire their beauty.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: March 31, 2006