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C. J. Cornish

Just before hay-time, the crowning glory of the Thames-side flats is given by the flowers growing in the grass. Their setting, among the uncounted millions of green grass stems, appeals not only by the contrast of colour, but by the sense of coolness and content which these sheltered and softly bedded blossoms suggest. The meadows which they adorn are best-loved of all the fields of England; but they would never be as dear to Englishmen as they are were it not for the flowers which deck them. The blossoms and plants found in the tall grasses differ from those on lawns and grazing pastures.

In Wittenham Wood, which in our time was not spoiled, from a naturalist's point of view, by too much trapping or shooting the enemies of game, though there was plenty of wild game in it, the balance of nature was quite undisturbed. Of course we never shot a hawk or an owl, and I think the most important item of vermin killed was two cats, which were hung up as an awful instance of what we could do if we liked.

    "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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