28 MAY 1937, Page 16


Sussex Crafts Those who pay any attention to rural crafts in England will feel it right and proper and pleasing that exhibits are going from Willigh to the Paris exhibition. Sir George Courthope maintains there, indeed develops there, crafts that have a continuous chronicle of 60o years or more. The oak forests have always supported a timber yard. The trees are felled when they ought to be felled, not before or after; and carried to their proper uses—to carts or hafts, beams or what not—on the spot. The iron railings of St. Paul's are made from metal dug out of the earth in Kent or Sussex and smelted by the heat of local timber. So the beams of Westminster Hall were made five or six hundred years ago, and again five or six years ago out of the finer oaks from the famous forest. I hope that the Willigh cart shown in Paris will bear an appropriate legend. It trails the glory of an unmatched English past. The iron industry has departed, leaving few signs beyond the very beautiful houses of the ironmastcrs (as at Gravetye), but the Untrodden Forest, as the early Celts called it, remains and is still capable of feeding a real industry, though neither the iron of " the Hastings beds:) nor the wood from the forest justify iron foundries. The whole exhibit, though small enough in area, is well designed ; and it was an admirable idea to include it. It was chiefly due to local genius of a rural kind that Britain earned at one time a sort of supremacy in certain domestic arts—in pottery as in furniture ; and the old artistic sense still prevails. Perhaps the blacksmiths are in the lead. A mass of work of the highest artistic virtue is produced in a great many counties, not least, as it happen..., in the neighbourhood of the extinct foundries of Kent and Sussex. In many crafts the West excels the East, especially in the turning of wood, though not in the making of farm implements. The Welsh national show usually excels all other shows in its presentation of the crafts both of the knife or lathe and the needle ; and in the domain of more serious agricultural work 90 per cent. or so of the prizes given for shoeing horses, no matter in what part of Britain, are won by Welsh farriers. They make also the lt-pound quoits which are thrown with quite unconquerable skill by the Welsh miners.

The Vanishing Labourer A shrewd countryman in the West reported to me a prophecy that in ten years' time there would not be an agricultural labourer left in Herefordshire. We may discount the hyperbole. Peradventure one or two will be left in remoter villages. It is true nevertheless that the labourers grow fewer at an accelerating pace. Time was—and not so long ago as historians reckon—when the western labourer was paid—in money— not more than ten shillings a week ; and was tolerably content. It is locally recorded that a labourer called to give evidence before a commission on rural wages made this tremendous claim for an irreducible minimum : "I do hold," he said, "that no labourer ought to be paid less than two shillings a day and four quarts of belly-vengeance." That racy synonym for cider was interpreted to the commissioners. Today wages of well over two pounds, with additions, are paid to some workers on the land ; and perhaps a type of labourer more worthy of the noblest of industries is coming into existence, even more surely in the West than in the East.

Emptying Counties One reason why the labourer is disappearing—in Hunting- donshire, for example, as in Hereford and Radnor, is that the total population of the counties is falling—has indeed been falling for the better part of a century. The multiplication of county council cottages in thousands of villages is not more remarkable than the tumbling down of cottages in other places. Village after village reaches the vanishing point in almost all districts which are near no big town, which are built on a soil that is immediately underlaid either by heavy clay as in Huntingdon or by a surface chalk as on the Berkshire and Wiltshire downs. The best known example of the village that has wholly and completely disappeared—church, house, school and population—was discovered by Mr. Orwin on the chalk down above Marlborough ! Perhaps the bottom has been reached in the west. The revival of the orchards of bitter-sweet apples, especially in the neighbourhood of this year's show of The Three Counties, gives some ground for hope. Jays and Cuckoo Pints One bird's poison, it seems, is another bird's meat. The jay eats what would kill the young chaffuach, even in the veget- able part of their diet. This -essay in proverbial philosophy is suggested by the sight of two jays, regular visitors to a neighbour's garden, scooping out and consuming with gusto the queer flower and stem inside the spathe of the cuckoo-pints. Even birds apparently exult in this meal of "lords and ladies," as the country children call the flowers. Perhaps the jays are attracted by the smell which is singularly repulsive to us, for it suggests decayed meat, and to bees ; but it attracts flies, which are natural scavengers. The very tints are meaty and suggest "warning coloration." The orange berries that succeed the flower and display themselves as successfully as the flowers hide themselves are certainly very poisonous to all sorts of animals, though I know one rural observer- who maintains that grown finches will eat the berries without suffering though some younger birds are killed. Another rural observer who has a number of curious examples to sup- port him, is quite sure that parent birds deliberately poison their young if these are caged. They will feed the imprisoned young till they are of a certain age ; and then in despair of their escape deliver a yew leaf or other poisonous food.

A Rural Exhibition • The National Trust, which has done yeoman service during the year, has found a new line of activity. Under the auspices of Country Life it is holding an exhibition of country life through the centuries. It consists chiefly of pictures, many of them by the greatest of our artists, illustrating various rural activities, but in part of apparatus. Both sides of the exhibition give a more or less continuous survey from the Middle Ages to the present. Examples are shown of furniture, in which England once was supreme, agricultural and house- hold utensils, sporting equipment and rural craftsmanship of many sorts, old and new. The exhibition, which perhaps will be of special interest to overseas visitors, is at 31 Grosvenor Square, which has been lent for the purpose by the Duke of Westminster. It will be open on Sunday afternoon as well as from 10.30 to 7 p.m. on week days. The proceeds will go to the funds of the National Trust, which still in spite of its name and its national service, is supported entirely by private generosity.

A Pheasant's Brood Game-birds, being distinctly gallenaceous in this regard, lay very large clutches of eggs, but seldom hatch out all the eggs by their own efforts. They may, however, be assisted. In one wood, not more than eighteen miles from Central London, a pheasant carefully guarded by her discoverer laid seventeen eggs and in due time chicks broke out from thirteen of them. The four remaining eggs were taken away, put under a hen and three days later four chicks were hatched. At a famous research station for the breeding of partridges it has been decided that the partridge cannot bring up properly more than a round dozen young ; and all eggs over this number are taken to make up separate clutches hatched out under bantams.

Climbing Ants It seems to be as good a year for ants as it is bad for bees. The hives suffered terribly from the wet and the loses are most melancholy. The more intelligent and tougher tribes of ants seem to be in unusual force. Fruitgrowers complain that they are swarming up the trunks in unwonted numbers. This earthbom insect will on occasion climb to the top of the highest tree and it has been known to cross grease bands fixed for the destruction of the winter moth. Happily its ravages are not often serious, at any rate in regard to blossom ; but it appears to have a peculiar fondness for the stalk end of some varieties of pear, and the little holes it begins are more or less fatal to the fruit. "Something with boiling water in it" poured in the nest is the simplest and least harmful remedy against the infestation. Though ants are a serious enemy, especially in the rock garden, it is strange to notice how some plants seem to delight in the crumbled heap, or in formic acid ! Not once but many times I have found the wild rock rose blooming with emphatic profusion on au ant-heap. W. BEACH THOMAS.