4 NOVEMBER 1905, Page 10

teyond that the Hammer Ponds, and beyond that again Royal

Common, an exquisite piece of natural woodland of the primeval kind, where heather and bilberry are broken by clusters of hazel and branching oaks, and the characteristic pool or pond is set like a mirror in the centre, Whence to the river Wey and Somerset Bridge and the fine park of Peper Harow is not a mile's stroll. These heaths and commons are not starved and blighted wastes. They are abundantly fertile in their own natural growth of plants, shrubs, ferns, flowers, or trees ; but they have no value as food-producing areas, though their preciousness as food for the eye and refreshment to the mind is beyond calculation. No doubt their owners are very sensible of this. But there exists always the great temptation of using them as building sites, and it is this which makes the action of the Hindhead residents so timely.

The growth of a rich population where thirty years ago there were only gipsies and "broom squires" is astonishing. A resident at Godalming recently told the writer that on some local holiday his servants requested leave to go out for the day "to see the shops on Hindhead." When the present writer was a boy at Charterhouse leave of absence for a walk to Hindhead over these lovely and primeval commons was like a day in some delightful wilderness, where you could expect, if you looked hard, to rouse a blackcock, and were almost certain to see a buzzard or a harrier. There was at that time a regular colony of old-fashioned naturalists and sportsmen in the then quiet little town of Godalming, whose houses were full of stuffed birds, their storehouses and offices also being crowded with specimens. One of these was the late Mr. Edward Newman, who in his early publication, the "Letters of Rusticus," gives the following genial description of a day after black grouse on the Hind-

head commons now purchased and preserved From time immemorial Black Grouse have inhabited Hindhead. This noble bird prefers swampy wet places ; I have known a pointer, when up to his knees in water, stand at a Black Cock ; but occasionally, especially towards August, the black grouse get up upon the brows of the hills, and then is the time when they are principally sought after by sports- men. It has always been a riddle to me that Gilbert White

should speak of the bird as extinct the sportsmen here kill them every year." Two of the people whose services were generally enlisted to aid in a day in search of the game were "broom squires" of the name of Rook, father and son, who knew to a nicety where the birds lay. The beating of the hillside by the sportsmen and the broom squires is then described, and the death of the blackcock-, who fell at a vast distance with one pellet through its heart from the gun of the clever old naturalist, who was also owner of a big water-mill, Waring Kidd. "Dick the broom squire threw up his hat, and shouted, Well done, Godalming ! ' I shall never forget the scene, nor Dick's keen relish for such an exploit, which quite overcame his regret for the few shillings which the bird would have brought him had he shot it himself later." The rare Dartford warbler formerly nested abundantly on these commons, but was largely killed off by some very severe winters. Snipe are plentiful in places still, and so is the fern owl in summer. Formerly, in the bottom of the Punch Bowl, where one of the beautiful streams that form the head-waters of the Wey takes its rise, the Osraunda regalia grew in quantities, and to a great size. It was also found near the Forked Ponds on Thursley Common, and on Highdown Heath ; but some years ago a great part of the Osniunda in the Punch Bowl had dis- appeared, dug up probably by gipsies and others for sale. On Witley Heath are pools and swamps abounding in rare and beautiful plants, especially the bog known as Witley Lagg,,, and the moors to the north of the common. Thus the purchasers of the property have preserved not only an open space of great size and singular beauty, but one which is a perfect museum of interesting plants, and a natural home of rare birds, though the blackcock has disappeared finally.

When the acquisition of an area like the Witley commons, in a district by no means overcrowded, and some forty miles from London, causes such satisfaction, it is natural to look northwards, towards the great industrial centres, let us say of Yorkshire, and ask what is being done to secure for their toiling and energetic people elbow-room and the uninter- rupted enjoyment of natural scenery among their magnificent moorlands, "becks," and rivers. Mr. Cameron Corbetthas given to Glasgow miles of mountain and moor ; but the millions of the West Riding and of Lancashire so far enjoy as a right only their local parks and urban pleasure-grounds. There is as much difference between a walk in a Leeds, or Sheffield, or Preston "park," and a roam over the Pennine moors, as there is between a glass of champagne and a cup of cocoa. Yet up till the present time no effort has been made by the great Corporations of the North to purchase and secure large tracts of moorland and hill, of which there are enormous areas within easy access by rail, for the enjoyment of their people. Tens of thousands go out every Saturday and Sunday, and leave the train at the small stations among the moors. But unless they keep to the roads and lanes they are trespassers. The actual moors are private property, and more or less valuable according to the stock of grouse they yield. Some quite close to Sheffield are among the best in Yorkshire, and so are those along the line past Penistone, Dunford Bridge, and other stations where the Sheffield worker comes to spend his Sunday in the open. Hundreds of persons walking over these moors in the spring would injure the grouse, and it would be impossible to shoot the ground in the autumn with parties roaming all over it.

But there are tens of thousands of acres of moor, mag- nificent to look up and to walk over, which are indifferent or very poor grouse ground, including some of the highest hills in the North. The Corporations have already spent great sums on the purchase of water rights there and the making of reservoirs. Let them add to the gift of pure water the further benefit of fresh air, and buy outright a tract of real wild mountain, rock, and rill as an absolute and unquestioned inheritance for their townsmen. The value is certain to go up in the course of years, as the appreciation of open spaces must perforce be enhanced, so that even if a financial crisis assailed the borough, the city moorlands would be a good asset. Meantime Only the grouse rent would be sacrificed. The sheep could still be fed on town moorlands.