Monday 2 March 2015

Froggy Would a-Wooing Go?

A stunning picture of frogs 'borrowed' from this months entry
for the Irish Wildlife Trust's Facebook photo comp. Sorry but
I do not yet know who the photographer was except that it came
 from a group called "In Touch With The Wild".
It is funny how your childhood memory plays tricks on you. The 'wildlife gardeners' in us look forward to that annual milestone which is the frogs spawning in the local ponds and pray once more that they will adopt our new pond. Last year I tried that trick of importing spawn but was very late and was not successful. This year we are delighted to see that at least 3 frogs have found us 'naturally', presumably males, though I have heard no calling yet and we have no spawn. Also, the snow last night has, presumably put things on hold for now. The first we know of this spring happening is usually (sadly) that we start to see road-kill frogs in the lane and I often find myself be-set by an 'ear-worm' of the childhood song, "Froggy would a-wooing go". In my memory this song had the following lines "..and under his arm he carried a bow, for to shoot at the pretty little doe, among the leaves so green-oh". I was always a bit confused about why froggy should be taking his bow when he went wooing, and also why he'd be aiming at deer but, heh, it's a childhood playground/nursery song; it didn't have to make sense. Liz couldn't help me either as it must be a perculiarly English song and she had no memory of it from her Dublin schooldays.

My snow drops 'in the green' arrive
from England in perfect condition.
Of course, these days you don't need to go bothering your aging Mum or racking your brains for childhood stories - it's all up there on Google, so I nipped in just to check my wording prior to posting it here and making a fool of myself. Silly aul' codger! It turns out that I am remembering it all wrong and that I have conflated the beginning of one song with the rest and the chorus of another.

The 'Froggy' one goes

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.

(the rowley-powley being a suet pudding covered with jam) This goes on for 12 verses or so.

The snowdrops are quickly planted in our bank.
The 'Leaves so green oh' is entirely free of frogs and the bow was actually carried by a gamekeeper whom, you will be pleased to know, does not actually shoot the deer, anyway.

The keeper did a hunting go
Under his cloak he carried a bow
All for to shoot, a merry little doe
Among the leaves so green, oh

Jacky boy
Fare thee well
(Very well)

Hey, down, ho, down, derry, derry down
Among the leaves so green, oh

and so on. So now you know. Pud Lady (Hello Mum!) probably knew this anyway.

A little snow overnight and black clouds promise more
this morning
On the bucket of spawn thing I am actually being naughty (and probably illegal) too. You are not meant to relocate any wildlife but more importantly, the modern ecologist's view is in favour of letting succession happen naturally, letting the first invaders who find your new pond have their day and then get ousted (possibly) naturally as later, slower species arrive. When we created new ponds in the King's Wood forest in Kent it was always tempting to 'scenically' plant up immediately with rushes, water lily, marginals and so on, but the Kent Wildlife Trust and BTCV preferred leaving it. That way the environment was always more varied, having 'new ponds' as well as 'old established' ponds, with one group of specialised species surviving briefly in the new untill they were ousted by the 'old pond' species.

Waking up to new snow from the bedroom window.
Similarly, they (BTCV etc) liked the old way of coppicing, where a few men would only cut a small area each year (known as a 'cant'), rotating round every year to other areas, returning after 15-20 years. This way, in a small area of forest you would have tracts of new cut, first year re-growth, 2nd year, 3rd year and so on, and the species which favoured any one age could easily move around following the coppicers. Now it is done with bigger machines (where it's done at all!) and bigger areas are cleared in one year, so the wildlife has to travel bigger distances to find the next suitable patch. Nightjars were always a case in point. They are a ground nesting bird typical of heaths but used to use our newly cleared cants till the re-growth of the chestnut started to over-shadow them. Bluebells are also supposed to do better in a cyclic management system. Chestnut, when mature, is a bit dense for them but coppiced every 20 years it is perfect and you get those lovely years when the bluebells come up just after a coppicing event, to bright open skies and sunshine.

The sheep and the East Field
Well, our snowdrops 'in the green' arrived safely from Wisbech in England. Thank you 'Anchs'. There was no sweating and no bruising, so well done the post office and the packaging, I guess. These were quickly into the ground on a sandy bank under the larch trees just inside our front gate. The crocusses on the front lawn came up well but took rather a hammering from wind, sleet, hail and rain and are all but over, but will live to fight another year. I was reading Anne's blog where she says that she plants both yellow and purple crocus but that only the purple come up the 2nd year. We seem to be doing slightly better, with some yellow making it. We are pleased, too, that neither the geese, nor the sheep touch them. Even in the snow this morning I noticed goose tracks all around and about, but nobody had walked on them. I don't know why this should be. Perhaps the geese are focussed on eating grass and do not bother with areas which are 'not grass'.

Liz reads out her eulogy to Diamond at the dinner in
Bridport (Dorset). Picture by Sian Lewin
You may recall that Liz is currently off in the UK. She is at a meeting of the members of a chat forum she inhabits on the internet. There are 19 of them gathered for a long weekend of foodie eating, social drinking and healthy walks along the beach etc. They happen every year and the gang call the event the AGM and this one, being the first since Diamond died (she was one of the group) was a memorial to her name. Liz had written a short, entertaining eulogy full of Diamond-style quirky humour and in-jokes. Famously (among us anyway) Diamond's final words that anyone heard were when she saw husband John off at the door to give the dog a walk, she asked "could you bring me back some posh cheese?" The Posh Cheese was so amusingly and typically a Diamond thing that it is remembered with affection and so Liz's eulogy ends as follows.

"Good food, good friends and good times were important to (Diamond), so it is wonderful that, thanks to our host, Deborah, we are able to come together over this lovely meal to remember her. Can I ask you to charge your glasses: the toast is, of course, Posh Cheese."

RIP old friend. Never forgotten.

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