Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Across the Moorland

I thought I'd depart from Historical Fashion Wednesdays today and share this piece I stumbled across. It's a passage from a 19th century text that has interesting language. I find it helpful to get a sense of how our characters speak. I hope you enjoy!

Across the Moorland
AFTER a wild, boisterous night, the wind subsided somewhat, and although the barometer was still very low, I decided to make a start on my dreary drive of eight miles across the moorland. We were going to shoot through a few small scattered coverts on the fringe of the heather, and the bag, if not large, was likely to be varied, there being a probability of killing, or at least getting a few shots at, two or three couple of woodcock.
The hills at the head of the dale were shrouded in mist, and on the western horizon were banks of dark and threatening rainclouds. The air, too, was raw and chilly, and as we left the cultivated valley a keen wind came sweeping off the moorland.
The cattle in the pastures were huddled together under the walls, and on the lower allotments the sheep also were flocked together under the brow of the hill. These things, to a moorland resident, portended a storm, and when, further on, we met one of the dalesmen bringing a starved-looking mare and her foal down to the farm, our hopes for a fine day fell to zero. The road here for several miles is bounded on each side by the dry stone walls peculiar to this district. On one side the wide open moors stretched away for miles, whilst on the other were big allotments covered with ling, patches of bracken, and rough tussocky grass, with here and there stunted thorn trees, on the berries of which in severe weather the grouse are to be seen greedily feeding.
Grouse on these moors are numerous, and as we drove along they constantly rose from the heather on either side of the road, some to wing their way across the flat to the hills in the distance, others to pitch on the top of the wall, where with outstretched necks they would sit until the trap approached within gunshot; the old cocks, in the full beauty of their winter plumage, with a bit of brilliant scarlet colouring about
the head, frequently rising almost perpendicularly in the air, and then pitching a few hundred yards away in the long heather. Still the rain kept off, although the keen breeze increased until it became half a gale. On leaving the wall-bounded road for the open moorland, we appeared to be driving into the clouds of rain that were wind-driven across the face of the distant hills. Surrounded here on all sides by heather-clad moorland, we had left all signs of civilisation behind us, and the rain-sodden roads, bounded only by the wet ling, with here and there pools of dark peat-water, or a brown-tinted rushing mountain beck, were dreary and desolate in the extreme. No sign of life except the grouse, which ever and anon crossed before us, flying fearlessly over the line of empty butts that here run parallel to the road, and beside which lay piles of many-coloured empty cartridge shells. The patches of burnt heather were tinged with grey, due to a lichenlike growth which had sprung up to cover the earth; the tall rushes were bending beneath the strong wind which raised mimic waves on a tiny moorland loch, and the " bent " grass and russet bracken only intensified the dull brown tints of the never-ending stretches of heather. Once, for a few minutes, the sun gleamed through the masses of dark clouds, lighting up in flame-like lines the brows of the nearer hills, and sparkling on the rain-spangled heather. Then, as we crossed the shoulder of a projecting hill, 'he valley appeared at our feet, with the grey moorland village nestling beside the winding river at its foot. Crossing a tiny stream by a stone bridge, unprotected on either side, we soon reach our destination in the sheltered dale, and, after a brief "ifer-val, make a move towards the nearest covert—a small square Plantation of spruce and larch, with a plenteous undergrowth of rough grass and dead bracken, interspersed with a few holly bushes and tangled masses of brambles. We are only a small party of three guns and five beaters, together with a brace of hard-working Sussex spaniels, the best of all spaniels for general work.
Taking up our positions, we soon hear the tap, tap of the beaters, and then a shout of " Mark cock," quickly followed by a couple of reports from the outside gun. The spaniels give tongue, now approaching us, then turning back towards the beaters, and as they once more come towards us a rabbit is seen for an instant as he crosses an open space; the shot that follows is evidently successful, as the music of the spaniels ceases, and soon one appears with the rabbit in his mouth. A cock pheasant comes rocketing over, and is neatly stopped.
Source: Country Life ©1898

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