6 NOVEMBER 1942, Page 14


IT is a notable fact that gifts of land to the National Trust have never been so big as during the second year of the war. The Trust (which, of course, ought to be national in fact as in name) is in a fair way to become one of the big permanent landowners ; and yet the Trust—as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England with which it works—is chiefly supported by voluntary contributions' never large enough to give it full scope. Offers have been refused because the maintenance of the property has threatened too great an expense. Similarly, the C.P.R.E. (which has over 40 constituent and over 150 affiliated societies) is in need of money and members ; and it is hoped that, war notwithstanding, applications will pour into Headquarters at 4 Hobart Place. It, too, like the Trust, has never before been more beneficently active or more necessary. At the moment a great part of the coast of England is necessarily out of commission ; but in the future planning of rural England nothing is so important as the preservation of a continuous coastal belt. All the rather vague and foolish talk about National Parks, a phrase that has caught the public imagination, is a petty detail compared with the coast. This is the supreme National Park where all the world may find health and recreation. The nationalisa- tion of this shore belt would be approved even by the most ardent enemies of that other sort of land nationalisation, about which the agricultural wise-acres too glibly generalise.

The New Deal!

Who is the biggest landowner? I believe that in area, though not in value, the Forestry Commission comes first. It does national work with skill ; and few details have more astonished authority than the extent of the supply of British timber to the war effort. The question is whether this body works on the best principle. It has deal on the brain ; and though we are singularly dependent on other lands for every sort of fir and pine, it is theoretically (and scenically) best to grow the trees that best suit the clime. In some lovely places the regimented pines are a blot on the landscape, they destroy the character of the scene, they drive away or kill the natural fauna and flora ; and some of our most interesting birds, such as the blackcock, are confessedly regarded as vermin. Some countrymen feel that we need a Cobbett, a Peter Porcupine, to megaphone the despised beauties and uses of English ash and oak, and indeed sycamore, whose firm, white wood has been in _great request. Though all recognise the value of the Commission's work, I have never found local dislike of any Board or Institution that will compare with the feeling against it ; and such local attifude, if often ignorant and parochial, is not to be lightly scorned.

Absent Acorns On the subject of hardwood trees a very surprising letter reached me the other day from a nurseryman in Yorkshire. He and his helpers had perambulated the countryside in search of acorns, which he wished to sow in some quantity. They looked in vain, he wrote. Could I help? In the South and Midlands acorns abound. They fill the gutters of the" road, they lie so thick under some trees that if you walk there a continual crunching is heard. In one tree, visible from my windows, not fewer than a hundred rooks assembled and wrenched off acorns in scores, dropping some and carrying off others. School children collect a certain number, though not nearly so many as they might, as pig and poultry food ; and perhaps the best way of procuring seed would be to communicate with a local schoolmaster in an oaken shire. The village of Whimple in Devon has made itself famous for the tons of acorns col- lected there for pigs. We have two sorts of oak, and it is still discussed whether they are varieties or species: the pedunculate, in which a distinct stalk connects fruit and twig, and the sessile, in which the leaves have the longer stalk. Both are known as the English oak. The former is the more common, except in the North, and is sometimes preferred. It is perhaps surprising that the Turkey oak (of which a glorious example flourishes at Kew) is not more often grown for its beauty; but it is virtually a softwood tree, as the comparative speed of its growth would suggest.

In the Garden

It seems that an unusual amount of celeriac and kohl rabi have been grown this year ; and both can be preserved for some while if stored in sand. Celeriac stands weather well, but it may be wise to put it under cover when the period of hard frosts begins. In the flower garden the one patch of brilliant colour (outside the leaves and berries of Berberis Wilsonae and the leaves of thus cotinus and cotinoides) consists of gentian—sino ornata—fifty blooms to a square foot, and no other

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