My next door but one neighbour has planted a holly bush in his front garden and this year for the first time it has had berries - a good sign he says because now he knows for sure that it is berry-bearing
I think most of us love the holly - and not just because of Christmas - although especially at this time. I was reminded as I wander my way through Ronald Blythe just how important the holly bushes were to the farmer. There are still holly bushes/small trees in our hedges on the farm; they were never cut when the hedges were cut for the simple reason that they served a purpose. Trimmed back by all means but they were needed in the days of the ploughing with horses (and on the rare occasion when the farmer ploughed a field he still used them for the purpose). In the days when the plough was pulled by heavy horses the holly bush was the marker to make the first straight furrow down the field.
Blythe talks of the farm workers exchanging the ploughing for digging the trenches in the mud of the dreadful first World War and of still working with the horses. When the use of horses died out on the farm and the tractor came in the whole face of farming changed. My farmer's Dad used to still talk with affection of the old heavy horses they had over the years - their names, their temperaments, how they worked. They were as much part of the family as was the dog who worked the sheep.
Now as new people arrive by the score into the countryside I wonder just how many look at the holly bushes standing upright above the hedges and left higher although cut back neatly when the hedge is trimmed and realise that they were there for a purpose. I bet the blackbirds know where every single bush is.