Rambles with nature students [book]

Eliza (Elder) Brightwen
1899 unpublished
preface is quite possible to take a walk in the country, through the most beautiful scenery, in lovely weather, with everything to conduce to our enjoyment and invigoration of spirit, and yet to return feeling bored and weary, and half inclined to say how dull the country is ! That is one side of the picture. On the other hand I have known young people come back from a ramble in a quiet and rather unpromising country lane, their faces beaming with pleasure, and their hands filled with an odd
more » ... lection of specimens, leaves, mosses, stones, anything in fact which had taken their fancy as curious or interesting. Then eager questions are poured forth with bewildering rapidity, and it is easy to see that keen enjoyment has been derived from even this commonplace little stroll. May I point out that the difference between these two results simply arose from acquiring or not acquiring the habit of seeing intelligently what lies around us? If we pass everything by with our mental eyes shut, our physical eyes observe nothing. s preface I am going to take for granted that a large number of my readers belong to the former class, that they are intelligent observers, and yet are in need of a guide to help them to understand the thousand and one things that they may see in a country walk. The curious objects in hedges, trees, and fields all have a purpose and a meaning, but very often these need interpretation for those who never have had the opportunity of acquiring facts in natural history. The practice of putting down the results of each day's ramble, making notes of things seen or obtained, the first appearances of birds and insects, the flowering of trees and plants, will result in the course of a few months in a record possessing a certain value. We can thus compare one year with another, and note the differences in each, and the effect of temperature in hastening or retarding the appearance of flowers and insects, and the arrival of migratory birds. The remarks I shall endeavour to make upon all these and other points will be the result of my own actual observations, made from day to day and noted down at once, so that any readers who may like to follow this plan can do so with ease, if they happen to live in the country or have access to it from time to time. The first appearances of birds, insects, and flowers may vary somewhat as to date, according to the mildness or severity of the winter, so that I cannot promise that every object that I write about will preface 9 be found upon the same day in the following year, but probably within a short period, earlier or later, each object will be discovered. It need not be thought that one must be far away from cities in order to learn about nature. I live only twelve miles from Charing Cross, and yet I find abundant subjects for study in my own place and the adjacent common. I think it is especially interesting to try and find treasures in most unlikely localities. Having on one occasion to wait a whole hour on a pouring wet day at Bedford railway station, I determined to see if I could collect anything to while away the time. Things looked very unpromising outside the station ; new houses in the act of being built, heaps of sand and mortar, and plenty of mud everywhere, seemed hopeless enough ; but a bare patch of common, across which ran a newly gravelled road, caught my eye ; there might be possibilities in the gravel, so I made my way to the new road, and before long I had the pleasure of finding there several rare fossils, pieces of chalcedony and jasper, a shell impression, and sundry other treasures ; so, in spite of rain and wind, my waiting hour passed, not only without weariness, but in positive enjoyment. I believe I have heard of as many as fifty species of wild flowers being found in a single field, and a well-known scientist discovered an equal number of wild plants in a piece of waste ground in the outskirts of a large town. io {preface It is a little discouraging to begin our natural history diary in January, just when all animal and plant life seem asleep for the winter ; but perhaps we shall find to our surprise that there is hardly a day in the blankest season of the year, which will not afford us some sources of interest and much that will lead to pleasant thought and study.
doi:10.5962/bhl.title.17688 fatcat:txx32kdq7rcu5kthxt4y4424dq