Page images

wasted by long exposure to the elements. In the chinks, and on the ledges, are suitable rock-plants, trailing, climbing, or drooping over the face. Look, too, at the way in which those sand-stone rocks are inclined to the horizon! The strata come up into the daylight at a low angle, as if the rocks had been slightly tilted by subterranean convulsions. Yet the rock itself, massive and solid as it is, is simply a concrete of sand, the artful work of the gardener. We have already seen in the Alpine garden how the London amateur, if deficient in material for rockwork, may conceal with a robe of exquisite verdure an unsightly sub-structure from the view. Here, on a large scale, we may see the kind of rockwork that may be safely exposed to the gaze without recalling brick-kiln refuse, or otherwise offending the eye.

But here is the Lake, with its fringe of aquatic plants, and its beautiful wooded -island. Here we get a sight of the zoological collection at Battersea Park-the water-fowl from various latitudes. These aquatic birds are almost as typical of sub-arctic and sub-tropical regions as are the vegetable specimens themselves. Here are Japanese Teal, Egyptian Geese, South African and Buenos Ayres Ducks. Here also are ducks from the far north of Europe, partial to winter temperature, but sometimes staying on the Battersea waters the whole year round. Among the self-invited guests on this lake is a colony of Moorhen. They make themselves at home among Gadwall, Widgeon, Teal, and Muscovy and Pintail Ducks. Suggestive to many a visitor to Battersea Park are these Moorhen of winter sport around osier-clad islands, surrounded at Christmas by the frozen river. At Battersea Park the Moorhen has forgotten the sound of the gun, and her behaviour before Saturday afternoon visitors is as tame as that of the familiar Dorking

How beautiful is that island yonder, with pendulous trees drooping over its margin! The ground seems well clothed with tall grasses and low brushwood. It should afford a good home and abundant cover for the waterfowl. Doubtless the swans have good landing-places, a plentiful supply of dead rushes, coarse grass twigs, and other nest-making materials. As we stand looking at the Lake, there comes rowing up to us past the water-lilies a proud

maternal white swan, with quite a flotilla of little mouse-coloured cygnets in her wake.

The Swan, with arch'd neck
Between her white wings soaring proudly, rows
Her state with oary feet.

There are black Australian Swans here as well. Yonder goes a squadron of ducks, making an arrow-headed track in the water ! They sail round a headland in beautiful order, and disappear uttering strange dry shrieks.

But our Saturday afternoon is fast waning. We must take leave of the sub-tropical and sub-arctic scenery at Battersea Park. To what other horticultural grounds, be they public or private, around London, shall we go for such sights as these? Here, in Battersea Park—not in any huge glass conservatory, or Ward's case, but under the open sky—are living, side by side, the Arctic saxifrage, the English rose, the tropical palm, the desert cactus. And this wonderful out-door museum is a free exhibition to the poorest and most unlearned of Londoners, of whom there can never be seen too many at Battersea Park by the painstaking and skilful gardener, who likes to feel that his labour of love is not in vain. Then let no Londoner, for fear of being thought botanical, remain any longer unacquainted with this wonderful vegetation at Battersea. Let him give at least two Saturday afternoons of the summer to these sub-tropical and Alpine gardens. None the less will he enjoy the purely English landscape scenery in which most of our Saturday rambles are taken. The more will he delight in the vegetable life and scenery of the zone that lies between these sub-arctic and sub-tropical regions at Battersea, for with a newer zest and a quickened eye will he henceforth discern and enjoy the indigenous beauties of the country around London—the beauties of Burnham Beeches and Box Hill, of Epping and Richmond, of Knockholt and Windsor.

As we begin to return to Battersea Park pier, we cross the Avenue. This is the great promenade of the Park. The trees afford us a welcome umbrage, and we notice that they are English elms. But before we embark on the Thames, let us gain a noted eminence from which we may take in a wonderful landscape view.



[ocr errors]

“This prospect is to be had at the foot of Chelsea Bridge, which is the termination of the river-side drive eastward; and if you make your way there, you will find a walk which drops down towards a grand expanse of green turf, and above that walk a hill. Ascend the hill, and you will be delighted with a splendid view, comprising the grandest expanse of the park, with belts and clumps of trees in the distance, and beyond the park the spires of Wandsworth, and still farther off the green hills of Surrey, and away to the right, villages, towns, hills, woods—all delightfully commingled on a rich horizon—a scene well worth the few minutes it will cost to reach the spot from any part of the park."*

* 8. H., Gard. Mag.



Retired Leisure,
That in trim gardens takes his pleasure.—1 Penseroso.

FROM those early days of our civic history when John

Gerarde, Master in Chirurgerie (who had a large garden

in Holborn), used to ramble about Kentish Town and the fields of rural Islington in search of herbs and flowers—from the days, we say, of Master Gerarde, forefather of City botanists in the sixteenth century, down to the present fruitful era of field excursion-clubs and royal and national botanic gardens, there has not been wanting a succession of City-bred botanists to take their Saturday afternoon pleasures in ruralizing among the flora round London. A time-honoured institution in our civic literature are the botanizing excursions of Londoners. No sudden and newfangled notion of the present generation is the North-London Field. Naturalists' Club, or the East London, or the Quekett, that spend the Saturday afternoon in botanical or zoological researches in the woods and fields, or the ponds and rivers of our environs. These active and prosperous societies had their prototypes in the City at least two centuries since, when rural collecting-grounds were nearer to Town than now, and when the conditions and products of vegetation around London were far different from those of to-day. On the Saturday afternoons of the seventeenth century, the pupils of Apothecaries' Hall were wont to resort to Hampstead Heath and the fields near Islington to collect botanical specimens


and improve their herbal education. At Hampstead Heath and Kentish Town they filled their baskets

With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers,

under the eye of the veteran apothecary whose office it was to instruct them. As far back as the year 1629, we find a record of an excursion of a party of botanists from the City to the nearest woods and fields. It is the first botanical excursion in England of which a written account is preserved. It was on the 1st of August, the party was nine in number, the leader was Thomas Johnson, citizen and apothecary, Snow Hill; the route was through Kentish Town, Highgate, Bishop's Wood, Ken Wood, and Hampstead Heath; the number of flowering plants observed was seventy-two, and three lists or classifications of the plants were compiled.* By such work as this of Johnson's and Gerarde's have the catalogues of the flora around London been accumulated. By similar excursions on the Saturday afternoons in our own days new wildlings of vegetation are added to our knowledge.

Kew Gardens, where we are about to spend this October afternoon, what a product they are of this passion for the botanical hunting-ground!. All climes have been foraged by keen-eyed planthunters to contribute to this epitome of the earth's vegetation ! What tales of strange incident and adventure belong to the captures which are lodged in these great botanical menageries at Kew! What narratives, unsurpassed by the tales of the Jules Gerards of zoological enterprise! What stories of

Moving accidents by flood and field,

Of hair-breadth 'scapes, belong to these vegetable strangers, transported hither from desert and jungle and glacier! Here, too, at Kew Gardens, are the captures made by much-suffering botanists in the wilder collectinggrounds of our own island; by ardent adventurers who camp out for weeks in the gloomy solitudes of the Grampians for the joy of surprising their Alpine favourites in their native homes. In an humbler

way, and in a tamer field, the London Saturday afternoon

Flora of Middlesex.

« PreviousContinue »