A Walk from London to John O'Groat's eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 348 pages of information about A Walk from London to John O'Groat's.
in Spring, Summer, or Autumn.  After travelling and sojourning nearly ten years in the country, I have never seen a boy throw a stone at a sparrow, or climb a tree for a bird’s-nest.  The only birds that are not expected to die a natural death are the pheasant, partridge, grouse, and woodcock; and these are to be killed according to the strictest laws and customs, at a certain season of the year, and then only by titled or wealthy men who hold their vested interest in the sport among the most rigid and sacred rights of property.  Thus law, custom, public sentiment, climate, soil, and production, all combine to give bird-life a development in England that it attains in no other country.  In no other land is it so multitudinous and musical; in none is there such ample and varied provision for housing and homing it.  Every field is a great bird’s-nest.  The thick, green hedge that surrounds it, and the hedge-trees arising at one or two rods’ interval, afford nesting and refuge for myriads of these meadow singers.  The groves and thickets are full of them and their music; so full, indeed, that sometimes every leaf seems to pulsate with a little piping voice in the general concert.  Nor are they confined to the fields, groves, and hedges of the quiet country.  If the census of the sparrows alone in London could be taken, they would count up to a larger figure than all the birds of a New England county would reach.  Then there is another interesting feature of this companionship.  A great deal of it lasts through the entire year.  There are ten times as many birds in England as in America in the winter.  Here the fields are green through the coldest months.  No deep and drifting snows cover a frozen earth for ten or twelve weeks, as with us.  There is plenty of shelter and seeds for birds that can stand an occasional frost or wintry storm, and a great number of them remain the whole year around the English homesteads.

If such a difference were a full compensation, our North American birds make up in dress what they fall short of English birds in voice and musical talent.  The robin redbreast and the goldfinch come out in brighter colors than any other beaux and belles of the season here; but the latter is only a slender-waisted brunette, and the former a plump, strutting, little coxcomb, in a mahogany-colored waistcoat.  There is nothing here approaching in vivid colors the New England yellow-bird, hang-bird, red-bird, indigo-bird, or even the bluebird.  In this, as well as other differences, Nature adjusts the system of compensation which is designed to equalise the conditions of different countries.


Talk with an old man on the way—­old houses in England—­their American relationships—­English hedges and hedge-row trees—­their probable fate—­change of rural scenery without them.

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A Walk from London to John O'Groat's from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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