Gilbert White, the 18th century naturalist, lived in Selborne, about 20 miles away from me in Hampshire. His house and garden was my first 30DaysWild excursion this year. I set off in the fourth day of wall-to-wall sunshine (as forecast), with a slight concern of radio reports of downpours in Devon. That’s to the west of me, and west is where the wet weather generally comes from (in over the Atlantic).
This is the first Friday summary of my #30DaysWild for 2021. I think it’s the fourth year I’ve been doing it, since when I look for images in my files I find them in 2018! They have set up a new badge this year, which is great, and I’ll be using it for all these updates.
Gilbert White – visit with pictures
The naturalist is famous for establishing many of the notions of the natural world we take for granted; migration, emergence; the role of wildflowers and insects in keeping the land healthy. Sometimes he is referred to as the father of ecology.
The house that is now in Selborne has a massive wing on it (very attractive) that was not there in White’s time. This is not made clear in the tour of the house, although I think one can read between the lines. What I didn’t know was the same building houses the Oates museum–you may have heard of Lawrence ‘Titus’ Oates, who was one of the unfortunate men on the fatal 1912 Captain Scott expedition to discover the South Pole. His father was also an explorer, but in darkest Africa in the 1870s.
White’s house was bought by Oates’ son or grandson, and given as a museum for White, provided it could also house the Oates’ memorabilia. I didn’t know this before I arrived, as it wasn’t on the website (or maybe I missed it). But it is the reason one is met by an Adelie Penguin on first stepping through into the house itself.
I thought the house was well displayed. There are stuffed birds everywhere, which I don’t like, but in White’s time, this was how you studied birds (and other creatures). They remain here as a sort of photograph album to accompany White’s studies.
I took a couple of photos of bookcases. The White reference library is formidable. The Oates bibliography of Antarctica and its exploration is wondrous in its scope. I have about five of these books… I have a long way to go to catch up!
The flower gardens and meadows
Despite exiting through some beautifully wood-panelled parlours in the ‘new’ wing–built in the Arts & Crafts era and shows it–it was a relief to get into the garden. This is early June after a late spring – some things are well advanced, others lagging behind. The flowers in the ‘Quarters’ were great, as much for the authenticity of the flowers of the period (mid 1700s) and the treatment of many things which we now think of as weeds, or at best, wildflowers. The underplanting of lamium, otherwise known as white deadnettle, was stupendous. I pull these out of the veg patch with glee. I must consider relocating them to the flower part to take over from the bluebells.
In fact there were plenty of ideas for the wildflower gardener, or the bee-friendly gardener, just around every corner.
Vegetables on a slope
And the vegetables! I certainly can’t complain that my garden is too steep to grow them! My garden slope is about the size of that onion patch, by the way. It should be able to do more. I picked up on their melon bed (with cucumbers as well as melon) and realised that the trouble I’m having with my cucumbers is that they are either not warm enough, or the temperatures been fluctuating too much. I came home and covered the last few with an insect mesh which will give them some protection. But it’ll have to come off when the flowers come so the bees can get to them.
And I had a bit of lunch and shopping in the gift shop (wildflower seeds…) and came home, through the rain which had held off till I entered the car park!
The Bug Hotel
After failing to make this for the last three years, because I couldnt think of how to start, I suddenly realised that Bertie’s old seagrass tunnel was the ideal container. Just stick it in a deep plastic pot for some protection from the rain, and fill it with a bit of hay, and lots of sticks and stalks from the dead flowers of the spiky plants still hanging on at the bottom go the garden. So if you want to know what to do with your cuttings from next door’s bamboo, or your pampas grass flowers, stick them in a suitable container and make a bug hotel.
The whole thing took me less than half an hour. Plus four years thinking about it. Now to decide where to put it.