Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gilbert White's house in Selborne

Gilbert White's house from the garden
During the eighteenth century Gilbert White was the vicar at a small village called Selborne in Hampshire.  There he built a 30 acre garden and made meticulous notes on nature, the weather and his garden.  From these notes and letters to others with similar interests he compiled a book, The Natural History of Selborne which has been published in many editions and many languages since then.

Last week we went to visit his house and garden, something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl, mad about natural history.  It was a lovely day and a lovely visit.  Walking through acres of meadow, looking around his house and learning about his world and his interests.

He inherited a tortoise and wrote about it often.  In a letter of April 21st 1780 he wrote :
" The old Sussex tortoise, that I have mentioned to you so often, is become my property.  I dug it out of its winter dormitory in March last, when it was enough awakened to express its resentments by hissing; and, packing it in a box with earth, carried it eighty miles in post chaises.  The rattle and hurry of the journey so perfectly roused it that, when I turned it out on a border, it walked twice down to the bottom of my garden ; however, in the evening, the weather being cold, it  buried itself in the loose mould, and continues still concealed"

An old moss rose in Gilbert White's garden
You need to go to Selborne on a sunny day to fully understand Gilbert White's devotion to this place.  The sound of the grasshoppers in the meadow grass tells the story.