Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

May 2015

This months News



Nature Notes

The young May moon is beaming, love

The glow-worm’s lamp is gleaming, love

How sweet to rove

Through Morna’s grove

When the drowsy world is dreaming, love!

Then awake! … the heavens look bright, my dear

Tis never too late for delight, my dear,

And the best of all ways

To lengthen our days

Is to steal a few hours from the night, my dear!

(Thomas Moore, The Young May Moon)

Forty days after Easter is Ascension Day or Rogationtide, an ancient festival to invoke a blessing on fields, stock and folk, later to become known as ‘beating the bounds of the parish’.   By the 8th century in England it involved parishioners ‘ganging’ (walking) after the Cross around the edge of the parish.  This helped everyone to remember the boundaries before maps had become commonplace.  Along the way prominent trees – Gospel Oaks – often became the places for preaching.  The locations of various landmarks – stones, streams, hedges and ponds were impressed upon children by ducking them in water, ritually beating them with sticks, and then giving them a treat!  One thinks of trick or treat, but far more educational!

The other morning while walking round the village I became aware of the shrill piping notes, like a snatch from a ragtime piano, of dunnocks, or hedge sparrows.  There were two males, one either side of the road, sitting in the tops of the hedges, desperately trying to out-sing each other.  They were so intent on this competition that the one on my side of the road was completely oblivious of my approach.  To my astonishment I was able to get within about a foot of him.  We were almost eye to eye when he suddenly realised I was there and in a flurry he was gone.  The Old English for hedge sparrow was hegesugge, meaning ‘flutterer in the hedges’.  The Latin Prunella modularis sounds, I think, like an Italian actress, but the old Warwickshire name was Hedge Betty, Northamptonshire was Hedge Chat, and Oxfordshire, simply Billy.  Other names like Creepie and Shufflewing describe its way of moving in hedgerows.  It advances in a series of short, low hops.   Almost exclusively a ground feeder, it scurries around the undergrowth in a creeping attitude, keeping a sharp eye for insects, which form a major part of its diet.  The Swedish botanist Linnaeus called them Accentor, literally ‘the one who sings with another’.  The dunnock visually is LBJ (little brown job) almost identical to a female house sparrow, but more grey plumage and with a pointy beak, not the broad beak of the house sparrow.

Philip Stubbes in The Anatomie of Abuses 1582 writes, ‘their chiefest jewel they bring from thence is the Maiepole …. Their stinking idol rather, which they covered all over with flowers and herbs, bound round with strings and ribbons of variable colours, having two or three hundred men, women and children following it with great devotion.  And thus is was reared with handkerchiefs and flagges streaming on the top, they straw the ground around it, then bind green boughs about it, they set up summer balles, bowers and arbours hard by it, and then fall they to banqueting and feasting, to leaping and dauncing about it, as heathen people did at the dedication of their idols’.

What a shame we don’t have a village green!

Grenville Moore

This site is maintained by villagers of Oxhill for the benefit of the community and those interested in the history, news and activities that make the village such a pleasant place to live.

Send mail to the editor of the Oxhill News at news-editor @ oxhill.org.uk.

©2015 Oxhill Village (Terms and Conditions of use)

Last modified: May 11, 2015