July – The year is half over – and what a year, not because of the speed we are ripping off the sheets of the calendar, but because of the lack of rain.
Mind you, that scorching sun promised by the weather man was a long time coming. When it did come it was up in the eighties on one day and back in the sixties a couple of days later.
Even the sea got the seasons wrong. The ‘gully’ water we experience each year (gully is the blossom from seaweed rotting in the sea). arrived two weeks early, although it took the heat of the sun till the eighth of June before its smell made people sit up and ask the same old chestnut. “What’s that smell”. The old fishermen always thought the thicker the oil, as they called it, the more fish later to catch. May be they knew a thing or two.
Gully is food for plankton to feed and breed on. The process cleans the water and the remaining spent blossom sinks to the sea bed for other species to feed on.
This month sees the end of the lush green of Romney Marsh. It will slowly turn to a golden brown as its corn crops and grass seeds ripen. The hedgerows around Rye will take on a tired look as the burning sun turns fields into dust which blow on the wind and settles on the leaves.
The first crop cut will be the maize which leaves a grey stubble, so different now from how it all looked in the soft Spring sunlight.
After the Maize the early Barley will be awaiting the combine. The plough will soon turn the earth on the cleared and the seed drill follows and it all starts over again.
The End of the Hunt?
The government has decided that the Hunt is up! The magnificent sight of the men in red jackets on fine horses chasing after a fox with a pack of beautifully turned out hounds is over. Well that’s what they say but who will enforce this law? The police are unable to stop much of the more serious crimes that are being committed. It would need a sheriff on horseback to track these men! It would have been a disaster if the hunt had been outlawed in my young days. Hunt day was a boon to us youngsters, it meant we could legally be on the grounds where we caught our rabbits.
On non hunt days few farmers would shout at us to keep off their ground and we mostly complied with their wishes in the daylight. But at night they could not see us.
One good chance we had to ‘clean up’ so to speak was hunt day. Yes, we all put ourselves forward on hunt day. What little angels we were! Why, they even gave us a florin for our good work that was to go around early when it got light on the day and stop all the big fox holes up so that Charlie had nowhere to hide and would give them a good run. To us kids the more they ran with all those noisy hounds the better for there was nothing more likely to make every rabbit above ground go to his or her safe bunkers than a bloodthirsty mad pack of nasty dogs. So, forewarned and being paid as well, we toured the marsh blocking all the fox holes up with dirt. We also filled all the rabbit holes up but with a large hard sod of earth or half a brick that somehow always seemed to be at hand from the last hunt. On our travels we always picked up a brick butt from the gateways where the farmer filled the muddy entrance to fields and left them in the bushes or rushes by the rabbit warrens. These we placed at arms length below ground so that bunny could only get his head down. It was common to pull his back legs out of the ground after the hunting field had gone by and pull him out. A quick knock on the head and he was going nowhere except back down the hole to be gathered as soon as the hunt went home. As the toffs drank and ate that night to the good chase something they or anyone else could not eat we kids would be celebrating ourselves by paunching and carrying home a bundle of very edible rabbit meat. Sleep tight!
From July 2005 Issue of “Rye’s Own”
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