free ebooks

The Forest of Dean by H. G. Nicholls

One above Whitemead had only two eggs


"The fallow deer of the Forest were reduced in number after the year 1850 by killing a large number of does. They were all fine animals, and when the enclosures protected them they got very fat, and the venison of fine flavour. They were generally hunted."

At the time of Lord Duncan's Committee in 1849 a general feeling prevailed against the deer, on the ground of their demoralising influence as an inducement to poaching, and all were ordered to be destroyed, there being at that time perhaps 150 bucks and 300 does.

The remarks "Going after the deer," or "You don't, may be, want to buy some meat?" are no doubt fresh in the recollection of many. Going about with guns, in numbers too formidable for the keepers to interfere, shooting the deer by day, and carrying them off at night, were by no means uncommon. Poachers of a poorer and more primitive stamp are said to have resorted to the expedient of dropping a heavy iron bar from where they had secreted themselves, on the projecting branch of an oak, so that it might fall across the neck of the deer which had come to browse beneath. Or they baited a large hook with an apple, and suspended it at a proper height by a stout cord over a path which the deer were observed to frequent. They also were known to set a number of nooses of iron wire in a row, skilfully fastened to a rope secured to a couple of trees, into which, aided by dogs, they drove the deer. With such kind of sport at command, we may be well assured of the truth of Mr. Nicholson's statement before Lord Duncan's Committee--"if once men begin to poach, we can never reckon upon their working afterwards." Ornamental to a forest as deer undoubtedly are, and disappointing as it may be to the stranger to find none in the Forest of Dean, we cannot regret that, in 1855, Mr. Machen records, "there is not now a deer left in the Forest, and only a few stragglers in the Highmeadow Woods."'

Besides deer inhabiting the Forest from the earliest times, no doubt it was also frequented by all such animals as used to be accounted "beasts of the forest," viz. the hare, boar, and wolf, in addition to the hart and hind.

Adverting to the feathered tribes which have been observed in this neighbourhood, Mr. Machen remarks--"The birds in the Forest do not differ much from those met with in other parts of the west of England. I have been struck with the contrast in the smaller number of large birds, mostly of the falcon kind, which are now seen, in comparison with those I remember fifty years ago. At that time you might often observe fifteen or twenty kites and hawks hovering over Church Hill and the Bicknor walks; but now it is not frequently the case that you see one. It appears to me also that there is a great diminution in the number of all kinds of birds, small as well as large, so that in some parts of the Forest and woods the stillness and absence of animals of every kind is surprising. Ravens too have become very scarce. A pair had a nest by Simmon's Rock this year (1857), but they are said to drive their young to a distance as soon as they can provide for themselves. The only kind of plover in the Forest is the green plover or lapwing, which were very numerous at one time in the wet greens. Woodcocks used to be thought never to breed in this country, but they certainly do so now. In this Forest and in other places I have frequently seen them during the summer, and have observed their nests, made on the ground, of slight construction. One above Whitemead had only two eggs. When the plantations were first made, they became, even in the centre of them, well stocked with partridges; but as the woods grew up they all disappeared. Pheasants were turned out by me at Whitemead, and soon spread over the whole Forest. At one time there was a good stock, but lately they are much reduced. There are a great variety of woodpeckers, which do not, I think, hurt sound trees, but rather those which they find already decaying. Fieldfares and redwings come in great numbers. Nightingales are not numerous in the Forest, although they abound in the neighbourhood. They do not like its depths, or large trees hollow below; but prefer a thick close cover, and the vicinity of a road or path where the bushes are low and thick: but I never heard one in the middle of the Forest. Although a country like this seems unsuited to the wheatear, as preferring the Downs of Sussex, &c., still they come here in the spring, and are generally seen by the roads, or on stone walls in which they build their nests, and even in the heaps of stones, as also in the rails of bark. I remember that beautiful bird, the kingfisher, by the Forest brooks, but now you never see one. Flocks of rooks sometimes come into the neighbourhood when the oaks are much blighted, to feed on the grubs, and in such quantities that the trees are quite black with them. They come from a distance, as they are not seen at other times, and never breed in the Forest."


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us