A welcome week of sunshine has led my thoughts to summer – and to
picnics. In the early days of the Club, almost every outing of an afternoon
ended in a picnic. And with thoughts of picnics come thoughts of my favourite
places. In my beloved Mendip hills, Charterhouse Nature Reserve takes
pride of place. Situated at the source of a stream that runs down the
delightful Velvet Bottom into the Cheddar Gorge, between the twisted landscape
of ancient lead workings and banks of limestone flowers, it boasts a brilliant
carpet of flowers in July and August. You can find a host of butterflies
and moths, especially fritillaries and, if you are lucky, the little day-flying
Sooty Carpetsweeper moth. A small pool attracts myriad dragonflies, damsels
and other insects, with the occasional adder basking on the old slag heaps
near the banks. I remember a WOFC outing to Cheddar with Peter Creed some
years ago, when we walked down Velvet Bottom to look for the Cheddar Pink
on the cliff-tops, then sat in the sunshine eating ice-creams (heavily)
laced with liqueurs. One of many treasured Field Club moments.
Recently I visited a favourite local place, Juniper Valley near the Ridgeway,
a place the Club has visited on occasion. Strangely, although all my visits
there have been pre-planned, each one has been on a blazing hot sunny
day. This time it was to count Pasque-flowers. Simple enough, you might
think, but not when most of them are but tiny tufts of filigree leaves
an inch or so in height. In full summer the valley is a real sun-trap,
and a great butterfly spot. At the far end, a pair of stone curlews had
already arrived to breed. One of my earliest childhood memories is lying
on my back at the summit of Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor,
squinting into the sunlight to watch a skylark singing high above. It
is warming on a cold, grey winter’s day to drift back in time and
sit in a favourite wild place and allow the senses to remember the warmth
of sun on skin, the caress of a soft breeze, the feel of rough turf below,
the sound of birds above and insects all around, and the smell of wildflowers.
The variety of trips on offer with WOFC this summer may well lead some
of us to discover new favourite places.
The resident song thrush is already incubating in a nest in my climbing
hydrangea. The male has a quite striking song, unlike any other song thrush
I have heard. Some of the phrases are quite complex melodies, almost as
if it has learned them from a human record of a flute or oboe, and the
repeats of different phrases are strung together in a distinct pattern.
I recently read a BBC news item on new research into the dialects of humpback
whale songs. It seems wandering lone males pass them on to new populations,
who perhaps copy them badly or mix in something of their own, so the songs
change slightly as they progress round the oceans, rather like Chinese
whispers. In just two years, a new song was heard to spread from the east
coast of Australia 6000 km across the Pacific to French Polynesia. The
whales use the songs to attract females, perhaps rather like different
singers use new pop songs or different variations of the same song to
attract an audience. Like the song of the thrush, whale songs are also
made up of different phrases repeated in a particular pattern. I wonder
if certain whales are particularly good composers, and whether the females
are impressed more by the originality of the song, or by the skill of
the singer. Either way, impressive singers’ genes are more likely
to be passed on to the next generation. Birds, too, have distinct dialects,
both between and within populations. There is a delightful Zen parable:
‘if you listen to a thrush, you have not really heard the thrush,
but if you listen to a thrush and hear a miracle, then you have heard
Speaking of migration, the strange weather last autumn led to what appeared
to be an abortive breeding migration of the local toads. Following a cool
spell, followed by a very warm, damp couple of days, the local roads were
splattered with toads.
One of my neighbours has an infra-red camera that records short video
clips when triggered. Just before Christmas he set it up near a local
ditch, and on the very first night an otter waded out of the ditch and
peered at the camera. Otters have recovered from near extinction 30 years
ago to be found in every county except Kent. Shy and secretive, and to
some extent nocturnal creatures, few people notice their existence. Another
unexpected visitor was a grey heron, regularly seen stalking the ditch
in the middle of the night. Looking for reports of this behaviour on the
Internet, I could find very few, and these were only of herons in estuarine
areas where they may be taking advantage of a late tide. Perhaps there
are few records because nobody has watched them at night. Has anyone else
seen a night-hunting English heron? Some exotic species, called night
herons, do usually hunt at night, but they are stockier birds, with shorter
necks and legs.
The Field Club has wandered mainly over the Cotswolds this winter, with
birding trips to Witney Lakes and the Cotswold Water Park, and further
afield to College Lake in March, where the first chiffchaff was heard.
The autumn walks to Aston Rowant, Adlestrop and Dylesford, and to Sapperton
and Daneway, provided more wildflowers, especially the latter. On 16 October
there were still plenty of flowers blooming, including rock roses, meadow
crane’s-bill and pignut, and we found some interesting fungi. A
more sheltered trip was to the Nature in Art exhibition near Gloucester,
to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year collection.
The talks have ranged more widely, from red kites in the Chilterns to
wildflowers of Teesdale and Corsica. We had talks on beekeeping and bird
boxes and on the landscapes and habitats of Oxfordshire – a talk
that gave us lots of new ideas for places to visit. The last of the series,
on frog-hunting in Australia, is yet to come. We enjoyed our Christmas
dinner at the George and Dragon, Long Hanborough, and now look forward
to the Summer Party there.
The 48th Annual General Meeting of the West Oxfordshire Field Club was
held at the Witney Methodist Church, High Street, Witney on 4 March 2011.
The meeting was opened by Graham Wren, our President.
Apologies for absence These were received from John Dunlop, Brenda Betteridge
and Mr and Mrs Elvin.
Matters arising There were no matters arising and the minutes of the 47th
AGM were accepted as a true record and signed by Graham Wren. This was
proposed by Ann Dossett-Davies and seconded by Jill Bailey.
Treasurer’s Report presented by Tony Florey. The accounts remain
in credit and therefore there will not be an increase in subscriptions.
Coffee money, which this year amounted to £54.40, will stay in the
funds and not be passed on to BBOWT as before. There is £544.50
in the bank. The report was accepted and proposed by Tony Mattingley,
seconded by Margaret Edwards. The position of auditor has been taken by
Mr Gardener. This was accepted and proposed by Yvonne Townsend, seconded
by Jean Kenworthy.
Chairman’s Report presented by Sue Morton. This was a summary of
the walks and trips made over the past year with special mention of the
bad weather which led to the postponement of the Members’ Night
meeting. The chairman thanked David Roberts and Tony Mattingley for planning
and leading walks and Yvonne Townsend for arranging the trips away and
our Summer and Christmas parties.
Election of the committee. As all members are willing to stand again the
Committee was elected en bloc. This was proposed by Margaret Edwards and
seconded by Gillian Oldfield.
There was no other business and the meeting was closed.
The evening continued after coffee with a superb talk by Graham Wren on
nest boxes. There were some wonderful camera shots from inside the nests
showing how they were built and the differences in the ways the young
are cared for. This talk was well worth waiting for – originally
it had been planned to follow last year’s AGM but was replaced by
the postponed Member’s Night activities that evening.
Tony Mattingley, who has done stirling service as our Walks Programme
Secretary for a number of years, is stepping down and Mary Elford has
kindly agreed to take over from him. Her title will be Walks Programme
Coordinator, which we felt more accurately describes her role. Tony will
remain on the committee, and we would like to thank him for all his hard
work on the walks programme over the years. I am sure that Mary will prove
to be a worthy successor.
Now that we have some decent weather at last, I look forward to seeing
members out and about on the many interesting walks that we have lined
up for you this summer.
Thank you all of you who have contributed to this issue, especially Jill
who has written yet another interesting editorial.
Please send me reports of walks and other club activities for inclusion
in the Autumn 2011 newsletter by the end of August 2011 by e-mail or written
clearly on paper by snail-mail to the address given on the programme.
Don’t forget we also like to include observations and experiences
of the natural world you have that you would like to share with other
Erratum: In Newsletter 92 (Autumn2010) in the report of our visit to Upper
Teesdale, Globeflower (Trollius europaeus) was missing from the list of
flowering plants recorded.
Brenda Betteridge (Newsletter Editor)
REPORTS OF FIELD MEETINGS
Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve 12 September 2010
Six of us met up at the Cowleaze car park on a sunny but breezy afternoon.
We initially visited Bald Hill, an area of steep, south-facing, grazed
flower-rich chalk grassland with mixed scrub. The grass is kept short
by grazing Beulah sheep, feral goats and rabbits, and is dotted with ant
hills. Apparently, there are around 100,000 ant hills on the reserve.
Beneath the trees on the fringe of Bald Hill we saw hundreds of toadstools,
mainly those of the Blusher species. Within minutes of walking the grassy
areas between the scrub we encountered lots of Eyebright, a clump of Marjoram
still in flower, and then clusters of Chiltern Gentian, so many that we
had to be careful not to tread on them. It wasn’t long before a
Red Kite passed over, one of several seen, and this one spent most of
the time we were there gliding below us over the vivid green valley floor
between our vantage point and Shirburn Hill opposite. Later, a Kestrel,
which was also using the valley to hunt, saw-off a Buzzard, diving at
it time after time. A small flight of Swallows flew by quite low, not
lingering to catch aerial insect food, but hurried and moving directly
southwards – a good example of ‘vismig’, or visible
migration, to use an in-vogue term. Later, we walked part way to Linky
Down, another part of the reserve, before returning to the car park.
Eyebright Marjoram Chiltern Gentian Black Knapweed
Field Scabious Small Scabious Harebell Hawkbit
Wild Thyme Wild Basil Dwarf Thistle Carline Thistle
Common Centaury Common Milkwort Tormantil Agrimony
Wild Mignonette Lady’s Bedstraw Common Rock-rose Red Clover
White Clover Red Bartsia Common Ragwort Herb Robert
Honeysuckle Wild Privet Buckthorn Dogwood
Elder Whitebeam Crab Apple Blackthorn
Hawthorn Field Maple Bramble Dog Rose
Small Heath Meadow Brown Speckled Wood
Red Kite Kestrel Buzzard Long-tailed Tit Swallow
Carrion Crow Rook Jackdaw Blue Tit Great Tit
Sapperton and Daneway 16 October 2010
History went hand in hand with natural history on our Sapperton and Daneway
walk when eleven of us turned up for a lovely autumn walk in beautiful
countryside with the leaves just starting to change colour.
Sapperton means ‘the home of the soap makers’, probably a
reference to an ancient wool trade and linked with the occurrence locally
of fuller’s earth, a special clay once used for fulling (cleaning)
Sapperton was the base for a group of workers strongly influenced by William
Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement – men such as Ernest
Gimson and brothers Ernest and Sidney Barnsley are buried in the churchyard.
Norman Jewson worked and died here. Other famous people such as Sir Stafford
Cripps are buried in Sapperton Cemetery. John Masefield, the poet, lived
for a time at Pinbury Park, a property we saw on the walk.
Our walk went past the Daneway end of Sapperton Tunnel, through which
the Thames and Severn Canal flowed. Completed in 1789 the tunnel is 2.17
miles long and burrows under the highest part of the Cotswold Hills, at
its deepest point is 70 yards below ground and at that time was the longest
tunnel ever dug in England. Sadly the canal was abandoned in 1927 but
there is movement afoot to open it up once again to enable the Severn
to be rejoined with the Thames.
The walk took in Daneway Banks Nature Reserve managed by the Gloucestershire
Wildlife Trust and one of the most striking features here is the number
of large ant hills. These are made by the Yellow Meadow Ant and on some
grassland areas can reach up to 1 metre high. In some parts of Gloucestershire
the hills are known as ‘emmet casts’ with ‘emmet’
being the old English word for ant. Over 30 species of butterfly can be
seen on this site, including Green Hairstreak, Dark Green Fritillary and
the re-introduced Large Blue. This last one, a light steely-blue butterfly
was much prized by early butterfly collectors. It was lost from the British
countryside, being finally declared extinct in 1979. The Large Blue was
always a rare butterfly, with only about ninety known sites, and its decline
was hastened by agricultural improvement, the abandonment of grazing and
a lack of knowledge about the species’ close relationship with the
Red Ant. A few years after its extinction in Britain, when much more was
known about its life history, the Large Blue was re-introduced using butterflies
from Sweden. It is now established on more than eight sites between the
Cotswolds and South Devon.
The life cycle of this butterfly is complex and depends on a number of
factors. The female will only lay her eggs on Wild Thyme and occasionally
Wild Marjoram, between mid June and mid July. Once the eggs hatch the
larvae will feed on the plant before dropping to the ground. They will
then put on a display by lifting up one end and releasing a secretion,
which stimulates a number of species of Red Ant into thinking that the
larvae are their own. The ant will take the larvae to its nest where it
will happily spend the winter feeding on the unsuspecting ant larvae.
In mid-June the adult butterfly will emerge and the cycle begins again.
Bramble Meadow Crane’s-bill Old Man’s Beard
Hawkbit (various) Daisy Meadow Buttercup
Yarrow Tufted Vetch Common Dandelion
Red Dead-nettle Red Clover Herb Robert
Wood Avens Red Campion Pignut
Greater Knapweed Perforate St John’s-wort Common Ragwort
Field Scabious Black Medick Wild Basil
Common Field Speedwell Shepherd’s Purse White Dead-nettle
Musk Mallow Groundsel Ivy
Hedge Bindweed Selfheal Harebell
Wild Marjoram Common Milkwort Wood Sage
Common Rock-rose Common Chickweed Field forget-me-not
Hogwood Ivy-leaved Toadflax Meadowsweet
Small Teasel (Dipsacus pilosus) seed head
Bracket Fungus Ochre Brittlegill Blackening Brittlegill Shaggy Parasol
(and several others but too difficult to identify)
Great Spotted Woodpecker Robin Jackdaw Wren Mallard
Great Tit Moorhen Long-tailed Tit Rook
Pied Wagtail Carrion Crow Chaffinch Wood Pigeon
Goldfinch Blue Tit Magpie Blackbird
Adlestrop and Daylesford 2 October 2010
On a dry and mainly sunny afternoon eleven of us set out from Adlestrop
village hall car park on a circular walk of approximately 3 miles, which
was fairly level for most of the way. This took us along quiet roads and
field paths, much of which was through the Daylesford estate.
Leaving the car park we turned left to reach the shelter containing the
old ‘Adlestrop’ railway station name board and a plaque on
a (platform?) seat on which was inscribed Edward Thomas’s famous
poem ‘I remember Adlestrop’.
We later took the left fork and climbed steadily for about 300 yards to
reach a footpath, which turned into woodland, where fallen horse chestnuts
and beechmast were plentiful, and the first of the autumn colours was
just beginning to show. We also stopped to look at tree fungi and a large
Leaving the wood we crossed the busy A436 and entered the pristine Daylesford
estate where, from the pathway through the estate, we admired the fine
views towards Icomb and Stow on the Wold.
Passing through the estate with its paddocks of thoroughbred horses, the
stables and various farm and horticultural buildings, there was a wide
variety of trees of interest, following which we dropped down to Daylesford.
From here it is easy roadside walking (with hedgerows full of blackberries
and other autumn fruits) until we once again crossed the A436 into pastureland,
along the perimeter of the village cricket pitch, and a short walk through
the village of Adlestrop and back to the car park.
Hedgerow Other plants in flower: Birds seen/heard (H):
plants: Common Mallow Nuthatch (H) House Sparrow
Blackberry Herb Robert Mistle Thrush Pied Wagtail
Dog Rose Field Scabious Wood Pigeons Crows
Spindleberry Yarrow Great Tit (H) Lesser Black-backed Gulls
Snowberry Buzzard (H) Great Spotted Woodpecker (H)
Holly Fungi: Rooks Green Woodpecker (H)
Old Man’s Beard
White Coralled Fungus Robin Herring Gulls
Purple Stocking Wet Cap
Edward Thomas is said not to have left the train that stopped briefly
at Adlestrop Station just before the First World War, but what he saw
resulted in one of the best known of English poems. I thought it might
be interesting to include a couple of verses of his sentiments.
Yes, I remember Adlestrop –
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
Widford 7 November 2010
Nine members joined me on a chilly Sunday morning for this pleasant walk,
starting from the bridge over the river Windrush and heading round in
a circle via Swinbrook village. I was pleased to see my first Redwings
and Fieldfares of the autumn, blown in on a very sharp wind. We mostly
saw birds on our walk, with a very few flowers still hanging on. On the
way round we were invited in to see Malcolm Hudsons’s racing pigeons,
sleek thoroughbred birds, a world away from their scruffy feral cousins.
Birds: Robin Great Spotted Woodpecker Heron Mammal:
Redwings Carrion Crow Greenfinch Mallard Rabbit
Fieldfares Pheasant Green Woodpecker Moorhen
Mute swan Starlings Buzzard Greylag geese Flowers:
Blue Tit Pied Wagtail Dunnock Rook Yarrow
Great Tit Wood Pigeon Magpie Greater knapweed
Witney Lakes and River Windrush 12 December 2010
Eight of us had an enjoyable winter walk on a Sunday morning, all swathed
in warm clothes against the cold.
This is a gentle walk on almost all crushed gravel paths, so easy walking.
We passed the derelict Farm Mill which, at long last, is being turned
into six apartments. For years we had heard that ot was going to be a
restaurant but plans were changed. This will be a magnificent place to
live when the apartments are completed. The mill stream still runs under
the building but there is no machinery left.
A Little Egret was spotted as we got to the lake path itself. Then a couple
of Cormorants flew overhead. Other birds seen were a flock of Long-tailed
Tits. Many of the common water birds were evident – waiting to be
fed in the corner of the lake not frozen over. A female Ruddy Duck with
a blue bill and stiff tail was there also. These ducks are being officially
culled nationally to prevent their interbreeding with the Spanish white-headed
ducks which are not plentiful. Ruddy ducks were ornamental introductions
from America and have spread enormously.
There were plenty of dog walkers in evidence round the lake, including
a lady with four Sussex spaniels, a breed I have never seen before. They
were very dark milk chocolate in colour and bred with somewhat shorted
legs than Springer spaniels. To a dog lover, most interesting. These dogs
are shown at Crufts.
This was only a short walk, taking about 1 hour 40 minutes, enough to
get the circulation going.
Nature in Art, Twigworth, near Gloucester 27 January 2011
Eleven members and two guests visited Nature in Art to see the Wildlife
Photographer of the Year Competition fresh from it’s launch at the
Natural History Museum in London. This highly prestigious exhibition contained
over 100 entries from more than 80 countries and the standard of photography
was amazing, especially from the winners of the junior section.
The coveted title of ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ this
year was awarded to a Hungarian, Bence Mate, with his striking image of
leaf-cutter ants in the Costa Rican rainforest.
The ‘Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ was awarded
to a young man from Perthshire named Fergus Gill with his marvellous image
entitled ‘The frozen moment’ which captured a hovering fieldfare
picking berries. This is the second year running that Fergus has won the
junior section and must surely be a name to look for in future as an adult.
These are two winners that are mentioned from many others who were so
good, but are too numerous to highlight, but they all contributed towards
a most enjoyable Field Club day out.
PS. Nature in Art is the world’s first museum dedicated exclusively
to fine, decorative and applied art inspired by nature. It is housed in
a fine Georgian mansion, Wallsworth Hall, dating from the mid 1700s, which
is approached along a long winding drive. This was my first visit to Nature
in Art and, was pleasantly surprised by what I saw there. It was a wonderful
venue for a Field Club meeting on what was a cold miserable day. Some
of us braved a quick look round the statues in the garden – not
the best time of year to see them in what will be a very attractive setting
later in the year. We appreciated the cafe where we had a delicious lunch
when we arrived and tea and cakes before we went home.
Cotswold Water Park and Welford Pools Nature Reserve 12 February 2011
Cotswold Water Park
It was a fine sunny morning when ten members and one guest met at the
Cotswold Water Park Visitors Centre where, after a welcome coffee, we
set off for lakes 42 and 43, as we understood that Smew had been sighted
there previously and many of us were keen to see them. However, we were
to be disappointed as there was no sigh of them on this occasion.
These handsome winter visitors (November–March) migrate from their
breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Russia when the lakes freeze over,
but this year found the same problem on the Water Park lakes; therefore
their natural food of fish, molluscs and crustaceans was unavailable and
they obviously had to seek sustenance elsewhere.
Nonetheless we did have good sightings of other waterfowl, notably Red-breasted
Mergan\ers, Goosander, Golden Eye, Pochard, Shovellers and Gadwall. Little
Egrets were also seen. More common birds were Coots, Moorhen, Great-crested
Grebe, Tufted Duck and Herons.
Whelford Pools Nature Reserve
Later in the day we briefly called in at whelford Pools, which is also
within the greater confines of the Cotswold Water Park, but there were
very few wildfowl to be seen there. So we decided to call it a day and
make our various ways home
Other birds seen/heard:
Cotswold Water Park Welford Pools
Buzzard Crows Black-headed Gull Mallard
Blue Tit Rooks Mallard Gadwall
Great Tit Magpie Cormorant Heron
Green Woodpecker Mute Swan Shelduck Tufted Duck
Long-tailed Tit Moorhen
College Lake 27 March 2011
On a gloriously sunny spring afternoon, 15 of us met in the new Visitor
Centre at this BBOWT reserve and, after a quick look round it, made our
way to one of the many bird-watching hides which overlook the two large
areas of water. Tufted Ducks, Teals, Wigeons and Shovelers were swimming
around on the water, while Lapwings, Common Redshanks and a couple of
Oystercatchers sat and preened on the islands. Soon, a Ruff was spotted
making its way along the causeway between the two lakes. Later on, another
Ruff was seen at the water’s edge, along with two Common Snipe.
Just outside an open viewing window of the Octagon Hide, situated at the
northern end of the causeway, a pair of Canada Geese loudly chided those
of us inside watching their courting. While we were moving on from one
hide to another, a newly arrived migrant Chiffchaff sang from high up
in a silver birch, confirmation that spring had indeed arrived.
Birds seen or heard (H):
Canada Goose Carrion Crow Woodpigeon Snipe Coot
Shoveler Wigeon Starling Chiffchaff (H) Redshank
Lapwing Tufted Duck Teal Chaffinch Blackbird
Black-headed Gull Ruff Moorhen Mallard Goldfinch
Catherine sadly passed away on 3 October 2010 in a nursing home in Bampton.
She was a member of the West Oxfordshire Field Club from 1968 right up
to 2008. Early on in her membership she served on the committee and produced
the newsletter for many years before resigning in 1983. She was a very
keen birdwatcher indeed and, for many years, ending in 1990, she led the
Dawn Chorus meeting for the Club. Catherine became very much involved
with the British Trust for Ornithology and was their regional representative
for a long period, taking on the organization of the Wetland Bird Survey
Catherine, the daughter of a bank manager in London, came up to Oxford
to read Classics at Lady Margaret Hall. After graduation her love of the
countryside led to a change of direction through an agricultural course
and a spell as a resident in East Africa. She returned to Oxford, settling
in Sutton, near Stanton Harcourt, with her young son Andrew, but with
a broken marriage she found employment in the Classics Department of Oxford
© Tony Florey
She was a very active person and skied on the Downs whenever
there was enough snow. I remember, many years ago, going with her to the
Cairngorms cross-country skiing – a very strenuous form of exercise!
Millie Hunt was famous locally for her garden at Hill Green in Shilton.
She took great interest in cultivating a mixture of wild flowers and traditional
cottage garden varieties to form a unique blend of colour throughout the
season. Her garden was featured on BBC in the Geoff Hamilton Paradise
Garden series during the 1990s when both Millie and her late husband,
Horace, explained their gardening practices to Geoff while seated under
the large walnut tree in the top garden, Horace’s vegetable garden.
Born Millicent Nora Gardner at Elm Farm, Shilton, on 12 December 1915,
Millie grew up on the village farms and was educated in the village school
which is now the Old School Village Hall. She was 12 years old before
she left Shilton for a day trip to Burford. In later life she became well
known in Burford when selling flowers and garden produce on the WI stall
under the Tolsey.
© Tony Florey
Millie talking to members before leading one of her walks on Shilton Airfield
Millie and her elder sister married two brothers. Horace Hunt, Millie’s
husband, was a local dry stone waller and a competent gardener. Together
they converted Hill Green from a farm yard into Millie’s most interesting
flower garden and Horace’s immaculately tidy, orderly and weed-free
vegetable garden. These two gardens featured many times in various local
and national magazines culminating in star billing in the Geoff Hamilton
Millie was a staunch defender of wildlife and was known as the person
to whom you took an injured bird if you found one. One of her successes
was a skylark for which she made a nest on the floor of her back kitchen.
It used to sing to her all day long to her great enjoyment but one day
a window was left ajar and a cat got in and killed her lark.
Being a lover of wildlife it was natural for Millie to join the Field
Club (she was a member from 1976 to 2005). While an active member, several
times she shared a favourite haunt of hers – the disused Shilton
Airfield where some delightful calcareous grassland habitats had developed,
which in the summer were alive with butterflies and other insects. A special
treat at the end of the walk was a
conducted tour round her garden! Some of the articles she wrote for her
local parish magazine about wildlife were reproduced in the WOFC newsletter.
Millie was also a staunch defender of village life. She served on the
parish council for 35 years. Many features of Shilton are legacies of
Millie’s endeavours: wildlife habitats in the form of bushes and
long grass on the bank and, notably, the Old School Village Hall when
she was prominent among the campaigners to prevent its sale as a house
and to buy it for village use; it is now a thriving village asset and
invaluable. Millie was also a great supporter of Christian tradition as
the soul of the village and excelled at flower arranging for the local
Millie retired from the parish council in 1999 but continued to garden
and open Hill Green, both for the annual Shilton Gardens Open Day and
at other times until her 90th year. She entered the local care home a
few months before her 90th birthday and died on Sunday 17 April 2011 in
Tall Trees, Shipton-under-Wychwood.
Philip Best 1929–2010
As a Headmaster of local schools or as Church Warden of Ducklington Church
for several years, Philip revealed himself to be a loyal Christian and
so placid all the while whatever or whoever he was involved with. He was
happily married to Freda who cared for him so well, especially during
his final illness, and together they cherished their lovely home and garden,
offering genuine friendship and hospitality to so many, finding the West
Oxfordshire Field Club membership to share in conservation and the welfare
of both flora and fauna. (Philip was a member from 1971 to 2010.).
Philip was a splendid artist, producing so many scenes of the locality,
and an architechtural historian, specializing in the long history of Ducklington
village and St Bartholomew’s Church in particular, so fortunately
for us and future generations his contributions will be there still to
interest and inform us about people and things worthwhile. So much else
could be attributed to Philip and we thank God for him.
Rev. J. H. Cook
of a photo of Philip, examples of his work are reproduced here courtesy
of Yvonne Townsend.
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