Sunday, 23 November 2014

My Garden by Alfred Smee- early Beddington natural history

Thanks to Dave and Bob I've got hold of a copy of My Garden by Alfred Smee which was published in 1872. The book chronicles the gardening exploits and natural history observations through the 1800s of the current Grange- part of Beddington Park (adjacent to the farmlands and part of the contiguous green space that forms the heartland of the Wandle Valley Regional Park).
Anyway here's a few interesting bird observations:

Whooper Swan- one present through 'one winter'
Smew- one shot in January 1871
Slavonian Grebe- a specimen obtained once from the water.
Corncrake (Land Rail)- heard in the meadows in summer
Wild Geese- seen crossing over the garden, but have never been known to settle
Woodcock- visits the garden
Whimbrel and Curlew- heard crossing over of an evening during the autumn migration
Gulls- not often been obsevered
'A stray Patridge and Pheasant visit us now and then and one Quail has been seen in one of our meadows'
Turtle Dove- appears in the district plentifully in August
Woodpigeon- in 1869 flocks at intervals in number from ninety to five hundred crossed the garden
Nuthatch- has been shot in Beddington Park
Wryneck- in 1871 the gardener found a young Wryneck and placed in the Poor Man's House
Magpie's- they have been observed but are scarce throughout the district
Hooded Crows- formely considered to be scarce by Apollo, have been seen on two or three occasions
Hawfinch- occasional visits and probably occasionally breeds
Mountain Finch (Brambling)- recorded at times
Black-headed Bunting (Reed Bunting) - recorded at times
Woodlark- has been heard about the place
Grey-bearded Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Ray's Wagtail- have been observed (WTF?)
Marsh Tit- 'we have it'
Grasshopper Warbler- 'has been heard'
Nightingale- 'charms us with it's sweet melody'
The White Owl (Barn Owl)- 'The ill-faced owl, Death's dreadful messenger' (steady on)
'In the woods on the hills Hen Harrier, Hobby and Merlin have been shot.
Cockatoo- a splendid wild one was unfortunately shot this year (1872)
'Although birds delight us with their song, yet in my intercourse with musical men I have found but few that have the power of recording their notes' (Magnus Robb 100 years away!)
and finally
'A garden without birds is like a mansion without inhabitants'.

What a gezer! The founder of our local natural history and in whose path which he hath trail blazed we do gratefully and humbly walk (unarmed).


Lee Dingain said...

Fantastic! I'm really looking forward to stealing this from your bookshelf!

Peter Alfrey said...

So much information mixed with poems, music scores, pictures, stories. My kind of guy! lol

Steve Gale said...

You, Peter, are the latter-day Smee...

Peter Alfrey said...

lol- Smee of the Ghetto :-)