Lawrence Rawstorne.

Gamonia; or, The art of preserving game; and an improved method of making plantations and covcos, explained and illustrated online

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Online LibraryLawrence RawstorneGamonia; or, The art of preserving game; and an improved method of making plantations and covcos, explained and illustrated → online text (page 1 of 9)
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rof. c harles A. Kofoid















HPHIS Issue is founded on the Edition
published for the proprietor by Rudolph
Ackermann, Eclipse Sporting Gallery, 191
Regent Street, London, in the year 1837



I have been induced to inscribe your
name at the head of the following pages, not
only from long uninterrupted friendship, and from
my unmixed feelings of regard and respect for your
character, but from my admiration of the zeal
and perseverance with which you have enlarged
the bounds of science, and extended the field of
improvement in the creation of what is new in
picturesque beauty, and the embellishment of what
is old.

Nature has not laid open before you her
volumes in vain. Your zoological acquirements,
far exceeding any private collection, have stamped
in deep and indelible characters the infinite variety
of her works ; whilst the study of these has opened



to you new sources of philosophical research, and
a never failing resource and delight from con-
templative inquiries.

I have another motive for addressing you of a
more personal nature. We have both followed
the same pursuits, we have endeavoured as I hope
to render the amusement they afford not in-
compatible with more useful employments. I am
therefore vain enough to suppose that you will
not object to sanction, with your name, discussions
on subjects of a mutual interest. That your
health may long enable you to pursue a reasonable
recreation with the ardour of youth and the
experience of age, is my sincere wish.

Penwortham, Oct. 17th, 1837.


Frontispiece to Part I. Penwortham, with the com-
mencement of a Battue.

Frontispiece to Part II. Penwortham, with the con-
clusion of a Battue.


Tulketh Hall and Town of Preston .... 1

The Vale of Kibble 2

The Castle Hill 31

The Lower Ridding 112

Penwortham Church 115

The Round Wood 116

Blashaw Dam 117

The Crow Wood 119

The Hangsman's Bank 120

West End of the Four- Acre 122

Ho wick, from Blashaw Wood 123

East End of the Four-Acre 125

Penwortham . . . . . . . .126


AMONGST the various arts that contribute to
enrich the coffers of the landed proprietor, and
to gladden the existence of the lover of field
sports, there is none more interesting or import-
ant than that of planting, and none which is
less thoroughly understood, particularly as it
relates to covers for game. Although so many
books have been written on the subject, yet it
does not appear that there has been one, until
within the last few years, that has contained
such a general and comprehensive system as
would enable the planter in the early stage of
his practice to execute his work to the greatest
advantage, and to lay out his plantations in
such a way as to give the largest profit and to
answer in the most perfect manner the purposes
for which they were intended. Thus as his
knowledge had to be derived more from his
own experience than from any principles already
established, a great deal of labour and expence


has been almost entirely thrown away. Trees
have been put into the ground without proper
preparation of the soil, without draining, and
without being judiciously selected and mixed.
Covers have been made without the underwood
necessary for game ; and thus in a few years time,
after the side branches of the trees have died
away, the ground under them has become little
better than so much grass land, and the object,
for which the cover was made, has almost entirely

To remedy these defects it may be of use to
those interested in rural pursuits and amusements,
if some experienced practitioner in this branch
of science would give a compendious view of the
most advantageous mode by which plantations
and covers can be brought to the highest
perfection within a certain time. Sir Henry
Steuart has given to the world an elaborate and
scientific work, in which the properties of trees,
and their general treatment, but more particu-
larly as to their removal, is illustrated with great
skill and knowledge. Mr. Cobbett, in his " Wood-
lands", has entered more into practical detail ;
and is sensible, instructive, and satisfactory. But
neither of them have touched upon covers for
game. The delights of a battue, contingent on
such a creation, seem never once to have entered
into their calculations.


To those who are addicted to the excitements
of field sports, and who have had an opportunity
of discerning how inefficient the generality of
covers are as preserves for game, it may not be
useless to find the deficiency here complained of,
in some degree supplied by remarks which concern
alike the planter and the sportsman. In an age,
when competition is a ruling passion, when the
higher orders are striving for distinction in the
splendour of their residences and the luxuries
attached to them, it may be of service to the
amateur of the trigger to discover, how his en-

OO '

deavours may be best crowned with success in
one of the most bewitching of rural amusements.
He will then not be seen incommoded with the
overflowings of a bilious temperament, pouring
forth the vials of his wrath upon his gamekeeper,
when he ought rather to accuse his own mis-
management, nor expect to find an ill-formed arid
neglected cover the resort of the pheasant, when
it is entirely destitute of every requisite for giving
them shelter and protection.




THERE has arisen of late years a great rage for
planting, not only from that spirit of improvement
which has displayed itself in adorning the mansions
of the rich, but from the introduction of Battues,
which require extensive preserves and numerous
covers for the encouragement of game. When we
consider the changes which have taken place in the
conveniences and luxuries of life from an increase of
wealth, and a wider diffusion of knowledge, we shall
not be surprised that the modern sportsman has en-
larged his views along with the means of attaining
them ; and that what some time ago was considered
as the perfection of the art, should now be denomi-
nated slow.

The veteran who formerly prided himself more on
the skill of his performance, than the extent of his
powers and the quantity slain, now vies with the
youngest of the set to place himself at the head of
the list in a day's slaughter. The rising generation,
more prompt in their decision and quicker in their


aim than their more elderly antagonists, are as in-
satiate in their appetite for destruction, as they are
murderous in the execution of it ; and it is a thing
that would scarcely have been credited by our fore-
fathers that two shots should kill in one day three
hundred and thirty pheasants, which was done some
few years ago at Coome in Worcestershire.

It is not many years since pheasants became so
plentiful in the country as to afford an object of
general diversion. They were before either confined
to Norfolk, or thinly scattered over large tracts of
woodland, in which the difficulty of the pursuit en-
hanced the value of the prey. Thus it was that
either some particular soils were supposed alone
favourable for their production ; or it was thought
that though they might be bred, they could not be
induced to remain, without an extensive range of

Now the reverse of this is perhaps the real case.

Although some soils may be better for breeding
than others, and likewise such as pheasants will prefer,
yet there is none but what will fully repay the labour
and anxiety of the judicious preserver. Natural food
from ploughed land seems almost necessary to them,
yet in some countries, where there is nothing but
grass, such as in Herefordshire, artificial food only is
used in summer as well as winter, and that with
perfect success. In regard to large covers^ though



they may be pleasanter to shoot in, as affording a
wilder sport, yet as far as pheasants are concerned,
they are rather injurious than otherwise. In a small
cover the birds are better kept together and fed ;
are better guarded from poachers ; and more easily
defended from vermin. The pheasant is an extremely
timid bird, and when disturbed must have a certain
place of refuge and concealment. The nature of the
cover and the shelter it affords, are therefore more
material than its size. Some think that with a certain
number of acres thickly covered over with trees, and
with these drawn up like so many bare poles, the
object of their anxious wishes will be fully attained.

Nothing can be more fallacious than such an ex-

Grass perhaps half dead and withering, under an
impervious shade of overhanging branches, with here
and there a solitary thistle, is a place of abode ill
suited to the disposition and peculiarities of a bird
so naturally shy. Trees themselves are of little or no
use except for the pheasants to perch in. A strong
growth of underwood, with a mixture of briars and
brambles that retain their leaves in the winter, is the
best calculated for their shelter and protection. This,
as they think, will supply an impenetrable denseness
of thicket to screen them from the eye of the curious
observer, or to guard them from the attacks of an
invading foe. Such indeed is their love of retirement
from the public gaze, such their dread of exposure,


that they prefer trusting their security to their feet
rather than to their wings. A thick, grassy or sedgy
cover may offer an inviting seat to the hare or a
resting place to the restless rabbit, but by the
pheasant it is considered an insidious receptacle, big
with suspicion and alarm. Thus a cover should be
rather to a certain degree open, than too close under-
neath, to give them a greater facility of escape from
their active pursuers.

A cover of about five or six acres or even consider-
ably less, will give every advantage of attraction and
protection to pheasants ; and there will be more exe-
cution done in it in proportion to its size, than in one
of larger dimensions.

If the whole extent of covers be a new creation,
there should be a central preserve with two or three
smaller ones around it. The former may be of a
squarer shape than the others, which are best made
oblong from about sixty to one hundred yards in
width ; and contracting at the end which lies towards
the central preserve to about one half of the widest
part. The whole of it may then be taken at once,
and the pheasants being driven into a more confined
space at the end, the effect will be more brilliant from
a greater number being shown in the air at the same
time. In a square cover which requires being taken
at different times, the pheasants avoid the beaters by
running on one side, and thus many of them escape,
and are never seen.


The respective position of the covers being arranged,
great attention is to be paid to the ground on which
they are to be made. In the choice of this, there is
no better guide, than to fix on that which has been
already much frequented by game. They know best
what suits them. Care should be taken, that as much
as circumstances will admit, each cover should lie
well to the sun, and, if possible, that there should be
a running stream through it. Pheasants as well as
all animals love warmth and shelter, and in a hard
frost they will go any distance for water, which is
quite necessary to them. At that time, if only a
particular cover be well supplied with water, it will
be seen that almost every bird will be collected there.
Any rough ground also affords protection. An old
pit, or any moderate inequality of surface, should be
taken advantage of. But it is better to have the
surface in a general way rather flat, than too hilly.
All birds like to move on level ground, besides which,
they are more exposed to view on a declivity, and
there is nothing that pheasants are more fond of than

The next consideration is the manner in which the
covers are to be made ; and in doing this regard is to
be had to the proper preparation of the soil. This is
perhaps the most important business of all, and most
conducive to a successful issue ; but it is too often
ill attended to and little understood.

The method of planting on grass land seems now


to be nearly exploded. This is what is commonly
called the Scotch system, though the Scotch seem not
inclined to acknowledge it as their own. Yet it will
be admitted by them that it has been much practised
in their country, and it has been no uncommon thing
for persons to be sent down from thence to plant large
tracts of land in this way at so much the acre. Work
executed by contract is frequently but ill performed.
Although it may be agreed upon that the plantation
is to be made over at a fixed period with a certain
number of trees then alive, yet from want of the
ground not being properly prepared, many of them
will make but slender shoots for several years. The
ground will at all times have its fertilizing powers
brought into greater activity by being well loosened
and stirred, and by this being done the smaller fibres
of the roots will be better able to vegetate and extend
themselves. If the pitting system be adopted, the
hole made will retain the water like a tea-cup, though
this may not be apparent to the eye. The consequence
will be that a great part of the roots will perish ; and
then the top will die ; or the whole plant languish and
pine, and thus be very slow in making any forward push.

If then it be desirable to promote an early and
vigorous growth by the stimulative process of working
the land, it may be of use to examine the different
modes of doing this, and then to point out which is
the most preferable.

Grass land may be prepared by being ploughed in


the common manner, and having a corn crop taken
from it. This will be of service in rotting the sods
and pulverizing the soil. But it is a doubt whether
the advantage from it is a sufficient compensation for
the impoverishment arising from any white crop being
grown. This however is certainly an improvement
upon the system before alluded to ; as if in the second
year before the winter frosts set in, the land be laid
up in ridges and in a rough state, the amelioration of
it will be going on, and it may the more easily be
worked into a fine friable tilth. There is also another
benefit to be derived from it, that the land may be
laid into a proper form. This is by far the most
important thing of all in the whole art of planting,
and without it in most soils no trees will do well. It
may therefore be here material to speak once for all
of the form in which the land should be laid, and the
more this can be adhered to, or even effected in old
plantations, the better success may be expected.

Stagnant water is the bane of all kinds of trees as
well as of every good vegetable production. Some
sorts of trees may stand it better than others, but
even the willow, luxuriating as it does in occasional
irrigations, will not bear wet constantly lying at the
roots. If therefore judicious draining be necessary
to keep the plants in a healthy state, in the same
manner as a pure air and dry soil is conducive to
the health of the human body, it remains to be seen
upon what principles the mode of effecting it is to be
established, and on what process executed.


The first step towards it is to determine in what
way water acts upon the soil. On this point there
are two different opinions. Some suppose that water
runs through the upper stratum of lighter soil until it
meets with a denser and more impenetrable body
below, where it stops until it is carried off. To cut
drains therefore across the fall, would, as it were, tap
the part where the mischief lies, and thus lay the
land dry. Now though this may be true to a certain
extent ; though it cannot be denied, that the water
will in time sink down into the ground ; that it will
sink faster in light soils than in retentive ones ; in
those which have been well stirred rather than in
those which have been indurated from time, yet it
cannot be admitted that it passes through so quick
but that material injury may be effected before it
either evaporates or passes off to below. This is
abundantly proved by observing the difference of a
tree planted on an eminence, or in a hollow. If in
draining across the fall the soil is thrown on the
upper side, the water will be found dammed up ; and
no tree will then grow there as it should do. Even
if the soil be thrown on the under side, the further
the trees recede from the drain above them the slower
will be their growth. This shows the inutility of the
tapping system, which may do very well for carrying
off water from springs, but not that which lies on the

It may therefore be taken as an undeniable fact
that water runs on the surface. This is true even in


a piece of raw moss, where, if any where, the water
might be supposed to sink into the ground immediately
on falling ; but even here, if there is a hollow in any
part and no passage made for the water to escape at
the side, there it will lodge and prevent the growth of
any thing except aquatic plants. If further proof was
wanting, let it be observed where the rushes grow in
a field, not on the ridge of the but, but at the bottom
of it. Wherever there is a low part, whatever may be
the depth of soil or quality, there vegetation will
languish, and the land get starved unless the wet is

To lay the land therefore perfectly dry and to give
a regular and constant passage off for the water, an
artificial fall must be created by throwing the land
into beds. These should be eight yards wide, they
should be well rounded in the middle, but not raised
too high ; or if there should be a scarcity of soil, there
might be a danger of the sides being left bare. By
the land being thus formed, the water will be found to
run into the side drains, and from thence into the
main ones, and so be carried off for good.

Trenching with the spade is the most effectual, and
perhaps in the end the cheapest way of preparing land
for planting. By this, the land will be best thrown
into the beds already described, and these may be of
such a shape as to give an easy and regular fall of the
water into the gutters at the sides. The soil taken
out from these quite down to the clay, will assist


further in laying the land dry, and being spread over
the top will give a greater depth for the trees to
grow in.

Sir Henry Steuart, in his admirable book "The
Planter's Guide/' has entered at length (p. 482) into
the advantages of trenching for eradicating rushes.
These he considers to proceed from two causes ;
underground water, and tenacity of soil, which retains
water like a cup, and for which he says no cure has
been found. With respect to underground water
arising from springs, he may be perfectly correct in
his opinion ; but he seems to labour under a mistake
if he supposes the surface water is to be carried off
the same as the other. In like manner there is no
foundation for saying, that no cure has been found for
destroying rushes in a tenacious soil. An instance to
the contrary may be easily adduced. A field of a very
stiff nature, with a thin upper stratum, and a strong
clayey bottom, had been laid down to grass in buts of
eight yards in width. In a few years time it was
entirely covered with rushes. A trial was then made
of tile draining in the reins. The effect was apparent
the very first year, and in a few years scarcely a rush
was to be seen, and after being covered with a compost
of lime and sea slutch an entirely new verdure made
its appearance. This proves in the most striking
manner that rain water runs on the surface, and con-
sequently the more tenacious the land is, the easier it
is to lay it dry. Sir Henry Steuart has thought other-
wise, and acted upon a different principle, and has


therefore been led into a false conclusion. The land,
he speaks of as having trenched, was done under
peculiarly favourable circumstances. It lay on a de-
clivity, and a light porous stratum being underneath,
this would act just as an open drain. It also remained
in grass. Had it been under the plough and worked
out to a dead inert piece of matter, the result might
have been different.

The expence of trenching, though it may appear
considerable at first sight, yet, considering all its ad-
vantages, is perhaps as cheap a method of preparing
the land or more so, than any other. The mode of
executing it is so fully and accurately detailed in Mr.
Cobbett's excellent work on planting the " Wood-
lands/' that it might be sufficient merely to refer to
that ; but as one object here is to glean from others,
what may be worth collecting, his plan is here laid
down in an abridgement with some alterations.

The ground is first to be marked out by a nick of
the spade into the size wanted for the beds, these
being eight yards in width, and running at right
angles from the fence. Adjoining to the fence and
following the line of it, there may be made a bed only
one half the width of the others, and that sloping all
the way from the hedge. The work is then to be
proceeded in after the usual manner, the soil being
taken out for the trench and removed by the wheel-
barrow to the other end of the bed to fill up the
vacuum left there on finishing it. It is to be done at


two spits with the -spade, the sod being laid at the
bottom, and the new soil being thus brought to the
top. It is not so easy to speak to the depth from the
surface being uneven. If the beds be tolerably raised
in the middle, the depth will perhaps be twenty inches
in the centre and about sixteen at the sides. The cost
is Is. 6d. per rod of eight yards in stiff land and Is. 3d.
in light. The former would be 101. the Cheshire acre
of eight yards to the rod, and 51. 10s. for the statute.
It may be much doubted, whether if it was necessary
to clean and work the same by a fallow with the
plough, it could be done at less expence than this,
every thing reckoned in, during perhaps a wet season.
The price is so named from calculating labour from
20d. to 2s. a day, and a good workman at this rate will
earn from 2s. 3d. to 2s. 6d. a day in the summer time.
Mr. Cobbett recommends it being done by the day,
as if by the piece, it is apt to be neglected and not
done the proper depth. But though there is danger
of this, even when the men are well over-looked, yet
task work has numerous advantages. It gives en-
couragement to a hard working man, and it is what
he much prefers ; to an idle one it is a great punish-
ment, and therefore puts the burthen where it should
be. There are also frequently some on an estate, to
whom it is the interest of the landlord to give em-
ployment, if it can be done without much disadvantage.
It is not because they are such good workmen, but
because they get into arrear of rent, and the only
chance of getting this from them is by making them
work it out. It may therefore in this case answer to


both parties, if such defaulters dont rely upon it as a
too certain resource, and keep back their payments
with a view to the indulgence.

This then, it may be confidently asserted, is the
best way for preparing land for planting, either trees
or willows from cuttings. It enables the roots to
luxuriate in a loose friable mould, and it brings up to
their immediate use a new and virgin soil. But the
laying of it dry is perhaps for a permanency of more
utility than any thing. Neither Sir Henry Steuart
nor Mr. Cobbett have ever mentioned how the water
is to be got off. This seems a very defective part of
their system. If the trenching is done on a dead
level, the water will stagnate below, although it may
filter through the upper stratum and not be apparent
to the eye. When the roots reach this depth, there
can be no doubt but that it must be highly injurious
to them, if not before.

Sir Henry Steuart thinks that the lower stratum
under the trenched part is of great importance to the
well-doing of trees ; and that if it was of a light

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Online LibraryLawrence RawstorneGamonia; or, The art of preserving game; and an improved method of making plantations and covcos, explained and illustrated → online text (page 1 of 9)