The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

At Neston Parke (Col.  W. Eire’s) in Cosham parish are huge snakes, an ell long; and about the Devises snakes doe abound.

Toades are plentifull in North Wiltshire:  but few in the chalkie countreys.  In sawing of an ash 2 foot + square, of Mr. Saintlowe’s, at Knighton in Chalke parish, was found a live toade about 1656; the sawe cutt him asunder, and the bloud came on the under-sawyer’s hand:  he thought at first the upper-sawyer had cutt his hand.  Toades are oftentimes found in the milstones of Darbyshire.

Snailes are everywhere; but upon our downes, and so in Dorset, and I believe in Hampshire, at such degree east and west, in the summer time are abundance of very small snailes on the grasse and come, not much bigger, or no bigger than small pinnes heads.  Though this is no strange thing among us, yet they are not to be found in the north part of Wilts, nor on any northern wolds.  When I had the honour to waite on King Charles I.* and the Duke of York to the top of Silbury hill, his Royal Highnesse happened to cast his eye on some of these small snailes on the turfe of the hill.  He was surprised with the novelty, and commanded me to pick some up, which I did, about a dozen or more, immediately; for they are in great abundance.  The next morning as he was abed with his Dutches at Bath he told her of it, and sent Dr. Charleton to me for them, to shew her as a rarity.

* [This should be “Charles ii.” who visited Avebury and Silbury Hill, in company with his brother, afterwards James ii., in the autumn of the year 1663, when Aubrey attended them by the King’s command.  See his account of the royal visit, in the Memoir of Aubrey, 4to. 1845. - J. B.]

In the peacefull raigne of King James I. the Parliament made an act for provision of rooke-netts and catching crows to be given in charge of court-barons, which is by the stewards observed, but I never knew the execution of it.  I have heard knowing countreymen affirme that rooke-wormes, which the crows and rookes doe devour at sowing time, doe turne to chafers, which I think are our English locusts:  and some yeares wee have such fearfull armies of them that they devour all manner of green things; and if the crowes did not destroy these wormes, it would oftentimes happen.  Parliaments are not infallible, and some thinke they were out in this bill.

Bees.  Hampshire has the name for the best honey of England, and also the worst; sc. the forest honey:  but the south part of Wiltshire having much the like turfe must afford as good, or little inferiour to it.  ’Tis pitty these profitable insects should loose their lives for their industry.

        “Flebat Aristæus, quod Apes cum stirpe necatas
        Viderat incoeptos destituisse favos."-OvidFast. lib. i.

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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