Category Archives: Springtime

It’s Monday 21st May 1917 and Nellie Lant has to write an essay on Allotments

She writes:

One of the most patriotic a man can do in the present crisis is to work on an allotment. It is wonderful to see the amount of land now being cultivated, which in prewar days was used for pleasure or wasted.
The allotment holder has one great advantage over other men, this great advantage is health.  Health is a precious jewel nowadays, a man who has health is far more able to be of use to the country, if he has such a belonging, than a man who has not.
At the bottom of my garden there is an allotment, and every evening I watch the men, and even their wives busy working, resembling bees in their activity.  The man who before the war used to get up just in time to hurry to his work, now gets up about five o’clock in the morning.

I think that allotments are one of the greatest boons of the war.

I think this young lady will go far.

Nellie Lant’s Nature Diary for 8th to 14th May 1919

Last week we had a couple of days with winds from the North with the rest coming from the South.     This week the wind is coming from a warm southerly direction and nature, as a result, begins to respond as Nellie’s notes recall….

Thursday May 8th: South East wind. Fields one mass of gold, being covered with Cowslips.

Friday May 9th: Wind in the South.  Horse Chestnut trees in full leaf and beginning to blossom.

Saturday May 10th: Warm south wind. Weather very fine. Pear trees in blossom.

Sunday May 11th: Very strong wind, weather warm. Cuckoo flowers & Clover in full flower.

Monday May 12th: Soft wind, weather fine but dull.  Willow trees one mass of yellow catkins.

Tuesday May 13th: Weather very fine and warm, soft wind in the southern quarter.

Wednesday May 14th: Wind in the South East. Lilac and Laburnum in full flower.

Do you have a Nature or Weather Diary?  If you have I’d love to ‘hear’ what it’s like in your location – and post the weather report on a blog.  If you hav’nt got one – why not start one?  I have started one and will post it this coming week-end – I hope!

Nellie Lant’s Nature Diary, 1st May 1919

The war – and school – is over and Nellie is now a member of the 4th Cambridge Girl Guides. As with the other stories of Nellie I have told, I have a copy of her Nature Diary for May 1919.  First of all I was going to post it day by day – then I changed my mind to week by week – and that’s what I am going to do. The first two days of her diary are above – and included in the notes below..
May 1st 1919 was a Thursday – so that’s the day I’m going to start each 7 days of Nellie’s reports.  Nellie’s reports are quite brief but, as the days pass by, nature’s world changes – and Nellie notes those changes.

Thursday May 1st: Weather changeable, wind chiefly in the South, very gusty and strong.

Friday May 2nd: Strong north-west wind, but died down later in the day.  Cherry and Plum trees just blossoming.

Saturday May 3rd: Warm southern wind.  Witch Elm trees just losing their seeds and beginning to bud.

Sunday May 4th: Calm south east wind, very warm.  Lilac coming out in bud.

Monday May 5th: South east wind.  Blackthorn in flower.  [The technical name for this plant is Prunus spinose – the name “blackthorn” is due to the thorny nature of the shrub, and it’s very dark bark.   The word commonly used for the fruit is “sloe”.]

Tuesday May 6th: North East wind.  Hedges all white with May blossom.

Wednesday May 7th: South East wind.  I heard the Cuckoo for the first time.  A Pheasant and a Hare ran across our path.

Same time – same place – next week for report two.

Round the Cambridge Backs in Spring

It’s Sunday April 18th 1915 and Nellie Lant is enjoying Springtime in the Cambridge Colleges.  She writes:

My favourite pastime is to go for a walk round the backs of the collages, especially in Spring when one can see all the lovely flowers growing in the college grounds.  The Daffodils dancing and fluttering in the breeze, looking like a flash of brilliant light.  In the wilderness one can see Tulips, Primroses, Daffodils and Narcissus making a wonderful sight.
All nature seems gay with all the birds singing.  One can pick violets, daisies and buttercups.  The last time I went round all the leaves on the trees were bursting, and the May was coming out on the hedge.

There are some soldiers drilling on the grounds at the back of the Collages.  I think the Backs look most beautiful in the Spring more than at any other season.


What the ….

‘What the …’ Peter’s loud, slow, voice echoed over everything and everyone.
Everyone stopped talking.  Silence fell across the room.
He chuckled to himself: ‘I thought that would work’.

It did, and everyone turned to look at him.  23 pairs of eyes turned on him as he stood on the bench at the side of the hall.

‘Yes’, he said in a clear but quicker voice, ‘what the heck are we going to do about the grass verges in our village?  Three times I have called the council – and three times they have said they will be cutting it, but they never say when.  I think it’s time we set to and did it ourselves.  What do you think?’

Predictably a silence fell over the group followed by a burst of everyone talking.  Peter let it run for a minute or two then called them to order.

‘Hands up all that think we should leave it to the council’.
13 hands were raised.

‘Hands up all those who think we should do it ourselves’.
He counted the raised hands.  There were 17.

Ladies and gentlemen – there are 24 of us in this room.  13 said the Council should do the cutting and 17 said we should do it.  I make that 30 voters.  How come?’’

There was laughter at this.  Bill Taylor put up a hand.

‘Some of us voted for both!’  There was laughter in the hall. ‘I reckon – we all reckoned – that the council should do it but, as we have seen, they haven’t.  The village looks a mess so I suggest that we should do it – and properly‘.

There was a round of applause with two or three ‘hear hears’ as well.

Pete Sheldon stood up. ‘Why the heck should we do it.  We pay our taxes for them to do the work.  I don’t reckon that we should do the work as well.’
There was a ripple of applause but nowhere near what Bill had got.

It was Susie Williams that closed the discussion.

‘There are seven ladies here.  Starting on this coming Saturday we will all begin cutting the grass in question.  If any gentlemen wish to join us they will be very welcome.  If they don’t we’ll do it all ourselves’. 
There was laughter across the room with more than one voice calling ‘We’re with you Susie’.
Susie continued – ‘At 8.00 a.m. we shall meet at the post-box on the green and work out from there’.

She sat down to loud applause.

At eight o’clock on Saturday morning virtually all – 20 to be precise – from the meeting were there.  There were also five individuals of the younger generation.  At least two did not seem to be keen but … you never know.  They each had brought with them something to cut shrubs and, of course, some lunch.
Peter organised them into five groups of four and handed each group a barrow and a rake.  He had also brought three motor-mowers with him.

It was amazing how quickly the grass got cut and loaded into the barrows.

Peter had also arranged for a friend of his to bring his tip-up truck.
It was surprising just how quickly the overgrown grass verges disappeared and bright fresh, green, short grass took its place.

Peter kept an eye on all five groups and as soon as each group finished their patch he moved them on to the next.  His wife Jane and Helen their daughter brought round tea, coffee and buns of all kinds for the team.

By 5 o’clock Peter announced that there were just two bits left to deal with and they would do that tomorrow morning – hopefully completing this before church.
They did.

It was early on Tuesday morning as he drove down the road that he saw the council lorry parked up near the Green.  He stopped and went over to speak to them. They spoke first!
‘Where’s the bloody grass and that that you’ve been moaning about?

Peter politely told them.

‘You’ve what?  You’ve wasted our time and council time. You’ll be hearing about this.’

‘I don’t think so’, Peter politely replied. ‘I’ve just told our story to the local paper.  You’ll be able to read about it on Friday.  I think you’ll see some pictures as well.  Unfortunately you won’t be in them but your counsellor will be. 

Perhaps he’ll have a few words with your boss – and he, of course, might want a chat with you’ added Peter as he got into his car and headed off to a Council Committee Meeting.

Today is Whuppity Scoorie day in Lanark

On the 1st March each year, in the Royal Burgh of Lanark in Scotland, local children gather around the local St Nicholas kirk where, at 6 pm the ‘wee bell’ is rung. This is the starting sign for the children to run around the church in a clockwise direction, making noise and swinging paper balls on strings above their heads as they run. Originally it was a race but now, for safety reasons and to increase fairness for the younger ones, it is for fun. Non-the-less after three laps they can all scramble for coins thrown by members of the Community Council – the hosts the event.

This event is called ‘Whuppity Scoorie’ and is a traditional Scottish festival that dates back to the early 19th century. The tradition was first mentioned in ‘The Hamilton Advertiser, a local newspaper around the mid-19th century. It was called the “wee bell ceremony” suggesting a link with the ringing of the church bell.  It was in 1893 that the Advertiser first referred to “the custom known as Whuppity Scoorie” which simply became “Whuppity Scoorie” the next year.

The three laps around the church were also first mentioned in 1893, although the writer claimed this custom was 120 years old by then. The Advertiser also reported on how the local boys in those days rolled up their caps and tied them with string. After the bell rang, they would march to New Lanark where they would fight the boys coming in the opposite direction.

The actual origins of Whuppity Scoorie are unknown but there are, of course, several theories which try to explain how the ancient custom evolved. The most common theory is that Whuppity Scoorie came from a pagan festival that was intended to celebrate spring and frighten off winter or evil spirits.

Others believe it marks the time when days got longer allowing curfews to be lifted or changed so children could play outside longer. Another theory connects the event with an ancient religious penance in which the penitents were whipped three times round the church and afterwards “scoored” – washed – in the nearby River Clyde.  This is, though, a rather suspect action as the burgh and kirk session records make no mention of such punishments.  Another possible origin is that it was instituted to remember the murder of William Wallaces’s wife.

Whatever the origins – whatever the facts – today is a day when the young and older of Lanark can have a great memorable day of fun.