Migration perils and unrequited love – The Property Chronicle
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Migration perils and unrequited love

The Farmer

The chiffchaff, willow warbler and wood warbler are not easily distinguished from one another, except, as discovered by the curate of Selbourne, Gilbert White, at the end of the 18thcentury, by their respective songs.

To the casual birder they likely fell into the general bag of “little brown jobs”, but not to his questing intelligence. Gilbert also understood that swallows disappeared in the autumn, and, not knowing where they went, and also not believing Aristotle’s hypothesis that they lived in the silt at the bottom of lakes, conducted an experiment digging up trees on the down above his home to see if they hibernated in the roots.

One summer, when he was “a past his prime bachelor”, three sisters arrived to stay in his village. Apparently one in particular, Catherine Battie, caught his eye but no romance occurred and these “fine, fizzing” girls left the parish, not to return. Gilbert, like a lovelorn teenager, wrote an autumnal poem dedicated to “The Miss Batties”, the final part of which went thus;

 “Return, blithe maidens; with you bring along    

  Free, native humour, all the charms of song,  

  The feeling heart, and unaffected ease,  

  Each nameless grace, and ev’ry power to please.” 

The Farmer

About Martin Hole

Martin Hole

Martin Hole farms at Montague on the wetlands of the Pevensey Levels in East Sussex. Part family-owned and part rented, the 300ha organic enterprise provides a home to about 150 cattle and nearly 2,000 head of sheep, with a small diversification into residential property and a fledgling green tourism business. A former RSPB UK Lapwing Champion, Martin remains fascinated by the provision of wilderness whilst trying to keep the farm intact for three daughters.

Articles by Martin Hole

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