22 JULY 1927, Page 13

Country Life

A TRIAL OF TRAPS.

AMONG a great number of letters on the cruelty of the steel traps comes one from a landowner and farmer who has much trouble to keep down the rabbits. They destroy banks as well as crops ; and he thinks the trapping is due as much to the necessity to save the crops as to the enhanced value of the rabbits' skim. However this may be, he and the rest desire a humane trap ; and I hope through the collaboration of a western landowner to havelfull trial made of alternatives to the steel trap. There are several. The cheapest and simplest is the noose made for the R.S.P.C.A.

PRESERVING THE THAMES. A quite new idea, of fruitful promise, has been put forward ky Lord Astor in reference to the aesthetic preservation of the

Thames and its scenery. Those who boat on the Thames, whether dawdling in a punt or hurrying in a launch, enjoy nothing so much as the sight of lawns and gardens and woods, affectionately tended by those who own houses on the banks. The value consists in the beauty as seen from the river. Now Lord Astor with Lord Desborough, who makes a speciality of conserving the Thames, offers to allow local authorities to " zone " his private property. This means that the public would with their eyes at any rate possess these banks in perpetuity. It does not mean that the public might land there. Many riparian owners have been con- stilted and accept the idea with pleasure. They are very Willing that their private property shall be scheduled as an area where nothing may be built without the sanction and control of the local authority. Peculiar advantages of the proposal are that it would preserve the scenery—the most valuable of English possessions—without costing a penny to any s9ciety or public authority. Over and above the public spirit of Lord Astor's offer it establishes a precedent which will probably have far-reaching effects. By divesting himself of his power of selling his land for building, the landowner automatically reduces the future value of the land, and so his /Leir would escape with lighter Death Duties. This will enable the landowner, whether rich or not, to keep his-park without paying Death Duties on fictitious building value. The point is worth the serious consideration of every landowner who iiossesses property of scenic value, worth saving from

desecration. * * And desecration is proceeding apace. Garish bungalows, With roofs of as delicious a pink as a Dorothy Perkins rose, but with no compensation in texture or form, have quite killed the quiet charm of much of this most English river. Inci- dentally, no poet in our annals has caught the spirit of the Thames better than our present Laureate, who lived for years at the lovely Berkshire village of Yattendon, famous as a poets' nursery. He should write a verse for the use of the new Committee for Thames Preservation. He did write one verse that may be taken as prophetic :-

Where is this bower beside the silver Thames ?

O pool of flowery thickets, hear my vow ! O trees of freshest foliage and straight stems, No sharer of my secrets I allow : Lest ere I come the while Strange feet your shades defile.

The italics are not in the original I CORNISH AND SUFFOLK PATRIOTS.

Someone said to me at a recent show that there were two counties in England that, sun or shine, always backed their own agricultural show. The pair he selected for his commen- dation were Cornwall and Suffolk. They have this virtue,

though .I hope not exclusively. However that may be, Suffolk was unique at the Royal Show held last week at Newport for

an experiment, not wholly new, in the better sort of county chauvinism ; and it met with marked success. A little tent was supplied in an advantageous position, in order to advertise 6.O-operatively the three breeds that Suffolk has produced : Red-polled cattle, Suffolk Punches, and Suffolk sheep. As I Was reading the legend over the door, a farmer of exceptional physique and obvious energy entered. He was a South African, an enthusiast for Red-polled cattle, of which he owns a big herd in South Africa. Canadians, Americans, Rhode- sians, Australians, and many others entered that Suffolk tent of the three breeds, and all bought stock for export. The Canadians indeed desired so many sheep that one of the keepers of the tent had to leave his pitch and hurry off to Suffolk to find the animals that were wanted. The Suffolk enterprise is good for Suffolk. It is also good for the nation. New Zealanders have been clamouring for South Down sheep. Devon also has more than three animals to its individual credit. Is that adorable county doing all it can for its breeds ?

• * * * ENEMIES OF WEEDS.

The scientific exhibits at most of our agricultural shows have been particularly good. What especially interested me at one was a corner of the stall belonging to Rothamsted. At this old but very alert experimental station more and more work is being done in the discovery of natural enemies of injurious insects and plants. For example, parasites have been bred in millions for the purpose of export, for destroying tsetse fly in Eastern Africa and earwigs in New Zealand. The latest essay is in the deStruction of ragwort, which is seriously punishing some New Zealand farms. A patch of waste ground was found in East Norfolk where caterpillars of the Cinnabar .moth had eaten the ragwort, spread thickly over a hundred acres, to the ground. One ghels case at Newport contained a persuasive picture of the completeness of the destruction. We may hope that the caterpillar will carry its beneficent qualities to the Antipodes. But naturalization is a very dangerous business ; and before the caterpillarS can be exported many precautions must be taken. Do the insects attack useful plants as well as this favourite weed ? For the most part insects, like funguses, are very narrow and

l'sCc i specia a in their tastes ; and so far the only other taste which these yellow caterpillars appear to enjoy they share with the canary. If they cannot get ragwort they will nibble groundsel readily.

* ECLECTIC RATS AND SNAILS.

All round the world men of science are seeking remedies for these neighbours' plagues. I knew a young man of science in Queensland (he showed me many of the delightful birds of that rich province) who fetched from South America an insect said to be inordinately fond of the prickly pear, certainly the most destructive of all the Queensland weeds. It has eaten up even millions of acres. Unfortunately the insect's taste proved excessively narrow. It would only eat one sub-variety of the weed, and that the rarest. This it quite destroyed, and then died out itself for want of its proper food ! Many animals can detect differences in plants unappreciable to ourselves. Sheep as a rule will not eat prickly pear, but now and again they discover a particular plant with no obvious difference from the rest, which they eat greedily. In Britain rats show on occasion the utmost delicacy of taste. In one Surrey experiment with various sorts of peas, planted alternately in one row, the rats entirely devoured one variety and that only—burrowed for it before the plant was above ground. The garden snail and slug are great experts in selection of food. " They will walk from the next county to devour my Asiatic primroses," a gardener said to me the other day ; and his humorous ex[iggeration had a certain justification.

JAYS IN THE GARDEN.

In a new regulation special obligation is laid on landowners to keep the number of rooks within certain limits. Doubtless this is justified though the rook is a useful bird, with a peculiar taste for the crane-fly, parent insect of the worst of the fanner's enemies. A bird of corvine qualities that begins to prove much more destructive is the jay. Ill one most excellent garden, not above twenty-four miles from London, they quite ate up the peas ; and in [pother felt uponthe bread beans—a new taste. The fruit garden was visited by at least two score of the birds. I have never before heard of jays in such numbers, though I have seen gardens in Hampshire littered with the