‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works: in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches’ Psalm 104:24
If you can brave leaving Sussex by the Sea and cross the border into Hampshire then the little village of Selborne is well worth visiting. Not only is it one of the most attractive English villages, but it was also home to the Rev’d Gilbert White. Back in the eighteenth century he was assistant curate in the parish, but became famous for his delightful account of The Natural History of Selborne.
You can read all about his pleasure at the appearance of the swallows, hear about the progress of the family tortoise and learn all about his planting in the garden. He was a bit of a pioneer when it came to growing melons and was the first person to grow potatoes in the area. He also seems to have been willing to share his produce with his poorer neighbours, if the ridiculously high number of cabbages, he grew, are anything to go by.
There is a pleasing link between Catsfield and Selborne through the person of William Markwick. Markwick who lived in Catsfield was also an eminent naturalist. Indeed the second edition of White’ book contained some five hundred of his own observations by way of comparison, which is why it is usually known as the Markwick edition.
Many of White’s and Markwick’s writings covered new ground. In this season when we celebrate Harvest Festival it is worth remembering that it was Gilbert White who first discovered that the little harvest mouse is a distinct species. It is probably one of the harder creatures to find now, but in White’s day was abundant in the ricks that were brought to the farm-yards in the late summer. White was also something of a pioneer when he realized how vital earthworms are to the health of the soil.
For him the beauties and wonders of nature pointed to the existence of a loving God, who had provided a good word to live in. Sadly we don’t always treat the creation with the respect it deserves. The Rev’d James Bacon-Philips, my Edwardian predecessor at Crowhurst, was spurred to write a furious letter to the press when he discovered trippers were despoiling the village of its wild flowers, by digging them up.
The natural word continues to require standing up for. As we celebrate the safe gathering in of the harvest may we show our gratitude by working to preserve the glories of God’s creation.
Posted By: valerie