Country Diary – A Summer Breeze


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A Country Diary 16th August 1917
A breeze which sets thistle-down flying across the lane shakes the wheat sheaves lightly; you can hear ever so slight a singing as it searches between the stooks and in the hollow of the straws. On this upland a waggon is at work and children are gleaning – leasing, as we call it here; – not so many of them, as years ago, for there is no water-mill by the river where a small sack could be ground after the corn had been beaten out in a corner of the barn. This season grain has ripened quickly, ears drop yellow in the sunshine; fowls disperse themselves far across the stubble, ducks wander in a long line dabbling their beaks in the hollows, a cock pheasant, his tail glittering as it sways in the breeze, leads two hens, and is approached easily; hares sit composedly in a clump of red clover on the edge of the field.
Along the bottom of the hill clusters of scarlet berries on the mountain ash hang above the lane so ripe that they crush in the-farm boy’s hand when, riding on the straw, he tears off a bunch or two. Fruit will be abundant on the hedges; hips are yellow and the haws show their first delicate red in the mild evening haze. The bramble, particularly the low-scrambling bushes which bear the bigger berries, is covered with bunches; acorns are yellowing along the brim of the cups upon the oaks. The wood is very still; except for stray butterflies, a few dark red peacocks on the verge among them, there is scarcely any sign of moving life, and no sound from the small birds. It is nearly all warm colour now, patches of pale purple in the dwarf thistles on the down.

A Country Diary 16th August 2017
A breeze which sets thistle-down drifting across the winter barley from Pitstone hill, lifts a large flock of meadow pipits from the down. The lonesome call of the quail can still be heard from the arable field. This season grain has ripened quickly, ears drop yellow in the sunshine ready for harvesting for the malting house. The large patches of wild marjoram attract butterflies looking for late nectar – small heath, small blue, meadow brown, tortoiseshell, and gatekeeper. A kaleidoscope of colour.
Along the bottom of the hill the winter wheat has been taken in, and the resulting straw bales wrapped and protected from the weather are scattered like dice waiting to be picked up. No gleaning for the past fifty years – the combines leave little residue and the windmill is silent from it’s grinding past. The monster machines make short work of the large fields as their dust clouds drift on the breeze, upsetting passing motorists.
There is scarcely any sign of moving life on the hill and no sounds from the small birds – the whinchat on the fence line and the wheatear sitting composedly on the ground waiting for nightfall to continue it’s migration.
Fruit will be abundant on the hedgerows by the car park. The rose hips show their first delicate red, while the elderberries are turning purple awaiting the foragers along with the black bunches of berries on the brambles. It is nearly all warm colours now, golden grasses intermixed with yellow trefoil and the purple thistles and marjoram, and the dainty blue harebell.

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