,bll JULIAN HOLROYD
" FOR now the year draws on Squirrel has hoarded all his 1 and the grey squirrels that abound in the district where I live have, I regret to say, hoarded a great many in our lawn, digging busily ill the early mornings. oblivious to the outraged cries that greet thern front bedroom or bathroom window. They look up when invective reaches :heir ears, but Only to run to another patch and begin buirowing anew. There has
towards its ending, tuts . . .
been a good harvest for them. for the nuts in our hedgerows ripened early. and beechmast, browned by an ardent August sun, now crackles out a carpet for our feet. The first half of September. with continuance of sun, brought disquiet ; could we keep rejoicing in these long, sun-drenched days? The springs were drying up, the root crops failing; wasps were (as everybody had ample opportunity to observe) but half their usual size; and even the worms. hopeless of moisture, had burrowed so deep that thrushes ran the lawns in vain.
Six feet or more a worm will burrow when drought persists, and it is not only the motes (whose staple die: they form) who are the losers. The once despised worm, having turned throughout the ages to the benefit of thankless man, is now recognised in all its worth as the finest fertiliser that we have. Its numbers, in certain parts of the world. amount to as many as 2,000,000 per acre. and when one considers that each earthworm will pass its own weight of soil through its body every 24 hours and that these casts make the best of all natural manures. one begins to appreciate the usefulness of the creature.
WE of today are being educated tile to the worm, but the Rev. John Lawrence. writing 200 years ago a treatise that he called The (lergyman's Recreation. had no good
ord for them. calling them. indeed, " these filthy Annoyers and Spoilers
of the Beauty of all Walks." He had his own way with them: " At arty time in Autumn." he wrote. " fill a Cistern or any large Trough with Water, putting thereinto a large quantity of Walnut Leaves. where let them steep at least a Fortnight or Three Weeks: in which time the Water will have received such a Bitterness that if you pour gently a small quantity of it on such places as are most annoyed with Worms. by that time the Water can be supposed to reach them you will find the Worms hurrying in great Confusion out of their Holes so as to crawl in great plenty under your Feet upon the Ground where they may be gather'd up and thrown away . . Only be sure to put Walnut Leaves enough that the Water be very bitter. otherwise it will do no good."
So much for the outlook of 1713. Sixty years later another cleric (at Selborne) wrote that " the earth without worms would soon become cold. hard-bound. and void of fermentation." And now, so far front destroying " these filthy Annoyers," there is talk of increasing our worm population, even to the extent of supplying them with special breeding boxes!
BUTif the worms in early Autumn had disappeared underground. the crickets were more in evidence than I have ever known them. We had. during that long. hot spell, an invasion of them. One, or even two, rasping comfortable to us in the evenings, we are accustomed to, but when it came to six, each one in a different part of the room. keeping up an intermittent chorus. it was. to say the very least. disturbing. One such chorus we had on an evening when the B.B.C. was giving us the Fifth Symphony. Encouraged. apparently, by the opening chords, our crickets tuned in, and throughout the performance vied with one another in shrill andel-tone's. I thought of Barbellion and his word picture of that Second Movement: " the rustle of a dead leaf of thought at the bottom of the heart . . a greyhound's cold, wet nose nozzline into a listless hand, and outside a Thrush singing . . ." What would he. I wondered, have thought of our intruders and their persistent piezicatos? (Probably he would have felt more clemency for them than he was able to accord the woman who had dared to knit as she listened to Beethoven!) But the crickets are silent now. and most of the birds who continued —so surprisingly—to sing throughout the summer, have either left us or fallen silent, The robin and the wren are still bravely vocal, and early mornings. over which innumerable snider webs are flung. brine the short, shrill cries of the chaffinches as they sweets excitedly from tree to likely feecline ground, then up again in a swift rush, solely, it would seem. for the joyousness of sunlight through now crisping air ...
" But still moves delight.
Like flowing. clear springsrenew'd by Ever perfect. ever in themSelves eternal."
[Julian Holroyd's "Nature Noteswill appear monthly.—Editor, C.H.j