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Zoology and Climate of the early Thames-country further considered. -Evi.
dence that the Thames Mammoth and Rhinoceros were indigenous to the
SATURDAY AFTERNOON RAMBLES.
HORNSEY IN THE OLDEN TIME:
ITS CLIMATE AND ZOOLOGY.
“He who calls departed ages again into being, enjoys a bliss like that of creating."Niebuhr.
"And some rin up hill and down dale, knapping the chucky-stanes to pieces wi' hammers like sae many road-makers run daft—they say 'tis to see how the world was made.”-Saint Ronan's Well.
T is the early dawn of Spring, and we begin again the ,
season of our Saturday afternoon excursions in the envi
rons of Town. Once more the lengthening days are promising us our long sunlight rambles. Nature has slept her Winter sleep, and her landscapes are again awaking into life. On, Sunday at Highgate the hedgerows were budding, the big resinous buds of the horse-chestnut were ready to burst into leaf, and the almond-tree had begun to dedicate her beauty to the sun, and to bear her blushing honours thick upon her. The humble-bee, too, was busy on the fragrant catkins of the willow, and the goldenyellow and silvery-gray blossoms were being gathered as palms by the church-going Catholic and as pussy-cats by the rustic Protestant belles. Thanks that to us and to our latitudes belongs the order of deciduous trees, and all the delights of this Spring-time of floral birth!
We then who are in populous City pent all the winter daylight hours, begin again this afternoon our rural rambles round London. From early Spring to latest Autumn we leave the City on the Saturday afternoon for some of those emerald landscapes with
which our smoky London is begirt. Let us quickly thread the narrow bye-ways round St. Paul's, below the steep horizon of parapets and roofs, and gain the tunnelled railway that leads us to a purer air. It is the Saturday Half-holiday hour of two, and troops of fellow-travellers are thronging to the early train. Among them you may see the maiden, not yet naturalised to London life, whom the poet has pictured ; she goes to-day to renew in the country her memories of the past, and her fading rustic bloom. Already
And a river rolls on through the vale of Cheapside.” A Saturday Half-holiday all the year round be to her and all her hectic sisterhood !
We alight from the train for our afternoon's ramble at the station on the Great Northern Railway which commemorates the Seven Sisters. Here is Stroud Green Lane, a highway well known to generations of North Londoners as a favourite route to the hamlet of Crouch End. As we walk up the slope, the new park for North London is on our right; and half-a-mile before us the north brow of the Thames Valley rises somewhat suddenly, running with a broken ridge from west to east. Gain Crouch Hill upon this ridge, or the great green mamelon of Mount Pleasant, and a grand view of London will greet you. But we will stop for the present on this side of the valley's brow; and further scan the features of the country about us.
The landscape beauties of Middlesex belong to the order of the mild and pastoral picturesque. The green hills have softly-swelling contours and sky-lines, not unlike those of the country of the chalk. Nature here is nowhere bold and rugged in her outline, as in the region of the crystalline rocks. Her aspects are gentle, placid, and subservient to man. At this early Spring season, the heights of Hampstead and Highgate are not yet leafy and umbrageous, and our feathered migrants have not yet returned to these their favourite wooded haunts. And yet Nature has entertainment for us bere this Saturday afternoon in these almost leafless landscapes.
Those rounded green hills on the horizon, not yet hidden by the foliage of trees, what is their history in the landscape, and how shall we read it? In the late months of Autumn, and in the days of early Spring, how plainly do these gaunt hills and ridges reveal to us the bared and bony framework of the aged earth! Are they indeed vast and ancient tumuli, stored with Nature's mysterious archæology? Do they entomb the remains, not of ancient Britons, whose dome-shaped barrows are yet within this Middlesex horizon, but of extinct zoological races in comparison of whose age the Briton and the Gaul are but of yesterday ? Let us sit down on this stile in the genial sunshine. We can enquire of Nature herself whether man has read her history here aright.
In this Stroud Green Lane some workmen are digging deep down into the ground. Apparently they are making a well. We observe the look of the soil they are throwing up. We notice that at a very few inches from the grass-grown surface, it ceases to be discoloured by vegetable stains, and begins to show its prevailing character. It begins to be a raw, dense, damp, and stubborn earth, into which the excavators wedge with difficulty their moistened spades. Its colour at this spot is of a brownish yellow, a little mottled with blue. It is evidently impermeable to the rainfall, which must lie on the surface till the sun can drink it up again, should there be no natural slope or artificial drainage in the ground. This unpromising soil is the London Clay. At this spot it is evidently being dug out of the earth for the first time in its history.
Thus far we read the character of the London Clay. What is its depth in the earth beneath us ? How far down would it lead us in the realms of subterranean Nature, could we descend through its entire thickness ? These are some of the questions raised among our party. The answer is at hand, for one of us generally happens to have with him in these Saturday afternoon excursions Mr. Whitaker's Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Middlesex. Here is a list of the wells in the locality, with their depths, and the nature of the soils they pass through. In the Hanley Road, the Hornsey Road, on the site of Hornsey Wood House, and at the Priory, Hornsey, are wells of an average depth of 160 feet through the clay alone. We know now almost to a certainty that