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C. J. Cornish

This is supposed to be a "business" country, but one wonders why new wants which accompany any change of daily habit are so slowly realised. Take, for instance, the annual migration to the Thames Valley, which has assumed proportions never reached before.

There is always some rivalry about shooting different woods on adjacent properties, and the villages near always take a certain interest in the results. Visiting our nearest riverside inn to order luncheon for our own shoot that week, I found about a dozen labourers in the front room, with a high settle before the fire to keep the draught out, sitting in a fine mixed odour of burning wood, beer, and pipes. Sport was the pervading topic, for a popular resident had been shooting his wood, and many of the men had been beating for him, and had their usual half-crown to spend.

About the opening of the year I went to see the big stags netted in Richmond Park for transfer to Windsor. Last season this unique and ancient hunting had to be put off till February. There was too much "bone" in the ground to make riding safe. When the frost gave, the stags were more than usually cunning, and were helped by more than their usual share of luck. One fine stag charged the toils at best pace, and, happening to hit a rotten net, burst through, and went off shaking his antlers as proudly as if he had upset a rival in a charge.

A month later Mr. Harcourt was shooting his woods at Nuneham. There are more than four hundred acres of woods round this most beautiful park, all of them giving ideal English estate scenery. The oaks of the park are like those at Richmond, but there is not much fern except in the covers. Nuneham is the best natural pheasant preserve in the Thames Valley, except Wytham, Lord Abingdon's place, above Oxford. The woods lie roughly in a ring round the park, in which the pheasants sun themselves.

If Henry VII.'s palace at Richmond still stood by the riverside, we should have a second Hampton Court at half the distance from London. It was almost the first of the fine Tudor palaces in this country, built very stately, with a prodigious number of towers, turrets, cupolas, and gilded vanes, on a site as fine as that of Wolsey's competing pile higher up the river. But though the palace has gone, the park is left.

When the Yeomanry left the hunting field for South Africa, and "registered" horses were commandeered by Government, fox hunting in counties where it is not the main business of life might be supposed to languish. As a matter of fact, it did not; and if the fields were smaller than usual, and a good many familiar faces missing, the master very properly felt that as he had his pack and there were plenty of foxes, he might as well employ the one and hunt the other, and keep up the spirits of the county by good, sound sport and plenty of it.

The capture of a 4-lb. grilse in the Thames estuary in December, 1901, raised some hopes that we might in course of time see salmon at London Bridge. Mr. R. Marston, a great authority, in an article on "The Thames a Salmon River," in the Nineteenth Century, has given many reasons why he fears that this will not be realised. The question is not so much whether the salmon can come up, as whether the smolts, or young salmon, could get down through the polluted water.

At the head of one of the smaller Thames tributaries, a few miles from the river, lies Ewelme, the ancient Aquelma, so called from the springing waters which rise there. There are trout in the brook and excellent water-cresses higher up, which are cultivated scientifically. Also there was a political row in Gladstonian days over an appointment to the living. But the real interest of this exceptionally beautiful Thames-valley village is that it is a survival, almost unchanged, of a "model village" made in the time of the Plantagenets.

It has been said that Thames eyots always seem to have been put in place by a landscape gardener. Chiswick Eyot is no exception to the rule. It covers nearly four acres of ground, and lies like a long ship, parallel with the ancient terrace of Chiswick Mall, from which it is separated by a deep, narrow stream, haunted by river-birds, and once a famous fishery.

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