“On the idle hill of Summer, sleepy with the flow of streams…” (Houseman)

Goodness, the longest day already !  Where DID that Spring flit away?  It seems only a week or so ago that I was munching my way through the sickly chocolate of Easter.  But then, doesn’t each year bring forth such exclamations from me when the realisation dawns that only 187 days remain until it is Christmas… Spending those few weeks away meant I was catapulted back into a ‘full bloom’ countryside and garden.  Many were the hours it took me to recover the pathways through my own woodland garden and cut away the bramble to allow entry to the various sheds and barns.  I am always astounded at the rate of growth of bramble. one day, when I am retired, I am going to just sit by an emerging bramble and watch it grow, it surely must make a metre a day !  Of course, with full bloom comes full insect coverage too.  Midges emerge around 7 pm and that is the time to be thinking about heading indoors, unless that is one is protected by the exhaust fumes of a strimmer.  I find the strimming activity is a useful end to the day, it allows another hour of outside enjoyment as the evening sun lights up the western side of my wooded grounds.  Horse flies are not deterred by carbon monoxide so long sleeves are very necessary.  My absence also meant I arrived back to dozens of fledglings chirping in the bushes and flitting hither and thither.  Redstarts seem to love it around here and I have three pairs within a stone’s throw.  Pied Flycatchers return each year to two particular bird boxes I have in the hazel trees which abound in my hedgerows.  I am lucky to still have a small flock of House Sparrows which return each summer to nest in the open eaves of my roof.  Here too the best of my summer visitors choose to nest.  They are always late arriving and each year I watch the skies as April turns to May hoping they will make it across the thousands of air miles they have to endure.  At last they zoom in, like fighter jets amidst the more ponderous tits and Dunnocks, the very pinnacle of aerobatic display.  Swifts are fast but alas are fast disappearing from our skies, I spend an inordinate amount of time watching them of an evening, worried this may be the last summer… It is a sad fact that for much of our woodland environment, not just here on this old estate, it will be the last summer.  The continuing onslaught of diseases such as phytophthora ramorum and lophodermium, pine weevil, spruce bark beetle all of which are devastating conifer plantations and phytophthora kernoviae killing ornamentals such as rhododendrum, azelias and camilia is scary.  The broadleaf woodlands are suffering too with ash die back (chalara fraximus) the big concern but alder phytopthora is creeping along rivers and streams. Oak processionary moth is a cause for concern as it poses a major public health threat, beech is facing nothofagus, chestnut is facing the Japanese gall wasp and there are many beetles which have arrived from foreign shores beginning to make their presence felt.

Paragraphs removed whilst investigations are carried out.

Buzzard found dead in Beulah area

The whole of this area is especially popular for Green Tourism holidays.  Only last week thousands gathered to watch the annual Man V Horse cross country event; next door to the estate is a very successful mountain bike centre with various courses set out in the woodlands.  Walking and bird watching bring hundreds of people to stay and wander in the area.  We need to protect the fragile environment for future generations as well as for those who enjoy it now.

I want to enjoy a few more years of solitude and peace on the “idle hills of summer, sleepy with the flow of streams”… Once all this darned walling is finished that is, but there’s a bit to do yet.  No depressive moaning next time, I promise, just more tales from the land and works of Welshwaller.  I have actually been building you know !!

The diary of Great Uncle Dick has been absent from the last post but here is the news fro the front for June 1915:

Thursday June 3rd.    King’s birthday.  Review and Salute in Hergest Square.

June 4th.   2 parades.  Rather long day.  Adjutant’s parade.

June 5th.    2 parades.  Half day off.  On quarter guard at night.  2 hours on, 10 off.

June 6th.    On quarter guard.  Very hot.  Lovely singing from Ron Conservicus (?)

June 7th.    Route march.  Terrible hot.  Many fell out.  No sense in march.

June 8th.    Adjutant’s parade.  Very hot.  Only shirts worn. 5 feinted as drill commenced.  Treating us like dogs.

June 9th.    Much rain and lightening.  2 parades.  Rolle came back.

June 10th.    Route March at 4a.m,  10 miles !!  Parade in afternoon.  M&D at night.

June 11th.    Capt. Thormel (?) marched us 4 miles to duty. Stayed all night.  Awful marche through Popperingher.

June 12th.    2 parades.  Marched at night,  Trenches held by KRR.  Clinton and Maid wounded on road.  We had been                            treated like dogs in the rear.

June 13th.    Ration party out through communication trench.

June 14th.    Easy day.  Awful Poor rations.  4 of us at night went to a cottage to snipe dogs.

June 15th.    In trenches.  Guard at night.  Easy day.

June 16th.    Rolly Jones killed.  Heavy firing at Ypres.

June 17th.    In trenches on carrying party.  Ammunition and water.  Lie Slaves.

June 18th.    In trenches.  Went to house to keep guard.  Relieved by Welsh and Cheshire.

June 19th.    Cameout to bivouac in woods.  Slept in open.  Changed bivouac.  Rotten time.

June 20th.    In bivouac.  Other company digging at night.

June 21st.    C.O.’s inspection on parade.  2 hours in hot sun – daft.  Digging at night.  Rotten time. Rotten officers.

June 22nd.    Feeling unwell, feinted 1st time in life.  parade 12.30.

June 23rd.    12.30 parade.  Rotten time getting dressed.

June 24th.    1 parade 12.30.  Digging at night.  Communication trench.  Capt Steel killed.

June 25th.    Scavenging wood at night in pouring rain.  Worst than trenches. Awful night in bivouac.

June 26th.    19.30 parade.  Changed bivouacs to go into reserve.  Our battalion manned trenches, relieved by Welsh.

June 27th.    Orderley man.  Digging at night.  Rotten time.  In water up to knees.

June 28th.    Relieved to be in trenches.

June 29th.    In trenches.  Digging at night.

June 30th.    In trenches.  Digging at night.

Thursday July 1st:    In trenches. Listening patrol at night Many narrow misses.

July 2nd.    In trenches.  On sentry at night.

July 3rd.    In trenches.  Working day-time in woods.    Narrow escapes from Shells.  Relieved by Welsh.

July 4th.    On sentry as soon as out of trenches.  Marched to lower bivouacs.

July 5th.    Bivouac.  Marched at night to huts.

July 6th.    Went 6 miles in shorts.  Came back, went for bath.

July 7th.    General’s inspection.  Booker away from camp.  Absent

The months of heavy shelling and the terrible conditions in the trenches coupled with poor food and senseless parades is showing in the writing of Dick.  He gets himself into trouble soon !


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