Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

January 2011

This months News



Nature Notes

Old twelfth night is traditionally the night for “wassailing”  your apple trees to encourage them to bear a good crop in the coming year:

Old apple tree we wassail thee, hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know, where we shall be, till apples come another year
To bear well and bloom well, so merry let us be
Let every may take off his hat and shout to the old apple tree
Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hoping thou wilt bear
Hats full, caps full, three bushel bags full
And a little heap under the stairs.  Hip!  Hip!  Hurrah!

This song is sung as the wassailing dance round an apple tree while drinking from earthenware or wooden cups and then tossing cider into the branches of the tree.  Cider was also poured into the roots and the lower branches drawn down and dipped into a pail of cider.  Toast or cake was soaked in cider then put into the branches for the robins – guardian spirits of the trees.  Finally, to drive away evil spirits and wake up the sleeping trees, horns and whistles are blown, trays, cans and buckets beaten, culminating in the firing of shotguns into the upper branches.  A wassail bowl went round from house to house in the evening during the Twelve Days of Christmas; this bowl was filled with a brew of ale, spices, sugar, and roasted apples, which was heated by plunging a hot poker into the mix.  Sometimes eggs and cream were added and it was known as Lamb’s wool.  A footnote here; when I lived at the pub as a young man (many years ago), I used to make this curious brew, and very good it was too!

I have recently had some good news.  A few weeks ago I had a report of two sightings of a Kingfisher along the brook.  I was afraid after the very hard winter last year that these wonderful little birds may have perished in Oxhill.  Apparently many Kingfishers, when brooks and rivers freeze over will move downstream towards estuaries in order to find flowing water, but of course hard winters will take their toll.  Most wild birds lose a third of their body weight overnight in cold weather, so it becomes imperative they get food every day – keep those feeders topped up and put fresh water out.

A bird I have never seen and is top of my “must see” list is the Waxwing, a rare winter visitor usually only to Scotland and northern and eastern England, but now is apparently being seen all over the country – but not yet in Oxhill?  This magnificent bird, with its pastel blue-grey plumage, black, white, yellow and red wing feathers, and longish crest-like head feathers, whose black bib and diagonal eye stripe give it a rather angry-looking expression, will land and feed on any berry-bearing bush or shrub, so keep a lookout, and I would appreciate a phone call if you see one (680664).

Now on these cold, dark nights there is nothing finer than a roaring log fire, standing warming oneself, first the front, then the back, but beware you gentlemen of spitting logs:

“If any man have his privy parts burnt, take the ashes of a fine linen cloth in good quantity and put  into the former oyle of eggs, and anoint the fore member therewith, and it will cure it”.

(‘The English House-wife’ – Gervase Markham, 1863).

And a very  Happy New Year to you all.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: January 06, 2011