Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Gorse



The gorse is out, or fyrs as it was called in Anglo Saxon times - I understand that in some parts of the country it is still called furze now.

We have two bushes of it down our lane. They are both in bloom. It is windy today so you really don't catch the smell, but on a still day the distinctive musty smell reaches your nostrils long before you see the plant.

I understand that when the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus, saw the gorse in bloom in 1736, he fell to his knees in wonder. Now we see it as a terrible pest.

Rou nd here there are still quite a few big patches of the stuff. The farmers try grubbing it out but it takes some doing. Even with modern machinery the gorse often grows back. How much harder - indeed, how impossible - it must have been in early times.

Ronald Blythe talks about it in Hardy's Return of the Native, where Hardy suggests that gorse defined the community - if a village was surrounded by gorse then it was entrapped by it. I suppose when you think about it, early generations would be defined by the flora of the area to a large extent. Gorse would make an excellent sheep-proof fence round a village but it would also have a similar effect on the local population. And in even earlier times it wouldn't make a bad defence fence either. I understand it was a wonderful way to clean out the chimney every Summer.

Thinking about earlier times reminds me that I am reading 'The Seven Daughters of Eve'. mainly because I am thinking of buying the farmer a DNA test for his birthday, so that he can see which of the original seven he is descended from. Reading it one is struck by the incredible strides in the discovery of DNA that have been made since the war and how often the discovery was helped by a small, seemingly irrelevant happening that just triggered the right response from one of the researchers. A perfect case of 'Fortune favours the Prepared Mind' I would say.

My sister, in the nineteen forties, lost several children before they were a fortnight old because she and her husband had an incompatibility of blood groups. Thankfully research has now consigned that kind of death to a thing of the past but I well remember the distress it caused at the time although I was only a very small child.

Well, seeing a gorse bush seems to have taken me on a rambling course but I suppose there is a link and that link is the past. We can't escape it, however much we try but often it does make us thankful that we live in the present.

17 comments:

Heather said...

I always learn something from your posts Pat. I love to see gorse in bloom but it is such a viscious shrub - I wouldn't like to try to dig it up. I believe we knew it as furze in the south east.
Medical science has come a long way since the 1940s - so much heartbreak for your sister and her husband.

EB said...

My parents live in south-west France, near Andorra. There is still one farmer near them who uses a huge ring of gorse thickets to fold his sheep - the kind of sheep that look very like goats, and are kept mainly for milk. They each have a bell round their neck. He is old though and I don't think any others use the thicket.

Gerry Snape said...

gorse says Ireland to me...dad called it the furze and there is hardly a place that you could go and not see it. they say that if the furze is out of season ..there is no kissing...in other words it's always in season somewhere in Ireland!

John Gray said...

gorse
always prettier from a distance

Arija said...

How often have we cursed whoever it was who brought gorse to this country where it is a rampaging pest plant. We are also not at all impressed by the homesick Scottish lady who wrote home for some fresh thistle seed to be sent out to her as hers had not taken . . . another pest that spreads like wildfire and takes a lot of grubbing, especially when the neighbours neglect theirs.
Memories . . . my mother's first little girl died of a stomach bug before the age of three and the discovery of penicillin.

Dartford Warbler said...

We are surrounded by gorse on our New Forest hill, but a certain amount is cut or burned away each spring so that there is room for the heather to grow. It gives food and shelter to the New Forest ponies and a place to hide and nest for the rare little Dartford Warblers, so I have come to love the prickly stuff, especially when the new yellow flowers appear.

Cloudia said...

gorse, grief, history . . . all in our genes and topic of the day.
Excellent!


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Pondside said...

There's gorse here too, and Scotch Broom that is a plague. Local lore is that only a few seeds were brought here by a homesick Scott - in a month the hills will be brilliant yellow everywhere and we will continue pulling seedlings as we do year round.

Bovey Belle said...

I love the smell of gorse in bloom on a hot summer's day - always reminds me of coconut. Here in Wales (probably elsewhere too) farmers used to have gorse mills to crush it for feed for horses (probably cattle too) as it was very nutritious. Some of the New Forest ponies have wonderful Jimmy Edwards moustaches which help them cope with eating the gorse tips in the winter!

Love the idea of the DNA test for your husband so he can see where his mitochondrial line is from. My OH would love that too.

ChrisJ said...

Sorry, but I love gorse. It brightens the landscape so. Perhaps it is more welcome in the north where there are more areas to roam. I don't remember it being considered a pest by our local farmers. It really does make a perfect spot for birds who nest close to the ground also. I remember chaffinches mainly nesting in he gorse

The Weaver of Grass said...

What an interesting lot of comments on gorse - some love it, some hate it - and what a lot of uses it has. Thank you for adding your comment to the pile.

Crafty Green Poet said...

What an interesting post! I loved Return of the Native and must get round to reading The Seven Daughters of Eve sometime.

I like gorse, the flowers are so beautiful and the scent is wonderful, specially in the heat of summer. But yes I can see it hasits definite negative points too...

Eryl said...

I love to see gorse on the hills and suspect it shelters lots of creatures I know nothing about, so I'd never thought of it as a pest.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

I was just thinking today about how much I hate Gorse. I'm spotting mini seedlings of it everywhere at the moment! It makes sense to use it as a hedge since its prickly thorns will deter livestock from going through it but I hate to see it used elsewhere...

On another note, a friend of mine made Gorse wine last year. Man was that some pungent stuff! ;)

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

And that's really sad about your sister's losses... Do they even do blood type tests to this day? I was married outside the UK so am not sure.

H said...

Seeing the gorse in bloom always makes me think of Llanbedrog Head at Easter-time. It is an attractive bush but, as you say, something of a pest when it grows in the 'wrong' place.

Dave King said...

It is sometimes called furze in our neck of the wood.

Yes, our developing knowledge of DNA has been responsible for some incredible discoveries. In medicine, of course, but also in other fields. Comparative biology, for example, our place among the creatures with whom we share the earth.

Lovely post.