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1 day, at 21 min. past 3 aft.
Sun Moon High WATER D.D. OCCURRENCES.
rises and rises & London Bridge. sets.
morn. I aftern.
h. m., d. h. m., h. m. h. m. 1W W oburn Fair.
6 36 6 57 2 T Ashford Fair.
s 4 024 1 4 7 22 7 51 3 F Chapel Bank C. M.
r 8 825 2 22) 8 201 8 54 4 S St. Titus' Day.
s 4 326 3 39 9 31 10 10 5 $ Epiphany Sunday.
r 8 827 4 56 10 47 11 27 6 M Plough Monday. Aberystwh. S.C. s 4 528 6 6 0 1 7T
r 8 7 29 7 3 0 36 1 3 8 W Fire Insurance expires.
s 4 8N sets 1 32 1 57 9 T Union (Southport) C. M. r 8 6 1 6a15 2 24 2 50 10 F Westward (Wigton) C. M. s 4 11 2 7 36 3 14 3 38 11 S Hilary Term begins.
r 8 5 3 8 54 3 59 4 22 12 S First Sunday after Epiphany, s 4 13 4 10 9 4 44 5 4 13 M Cambridge Term begins.
r 8 3 511 20 5 27 5 47 14 T Oxford Term begins.
s 4 16 6 morn.) 6 9 6 30 15 W S. Lancashire (Chatsworth)C.M.r 8 2 7 0 30 6 51 7 10 16 T Woolwich S. C.
s 4 20 8 1 38 7 34 7 59 17 F Curragh C. M.
r 8 0 9 2 43 8 30 9 4 18 S Grampound Fair.
s 4 2310 3 44 9 42 10 20 19 5 Septuagesima Sunday. r 7 5811 4 39 10 58 11 38 20 M
s 4 26 12 5 28
0 12 21 T St. Agnes' Day.
r 7 56 13 6 10 0 40 1 4 22 W Spelthorne C. M.
s 4 3014 6 47 1 25 1 46 23 T Honden Horse Fair.
r 7 53 F rises 2 4 2 24 24 F St. Timothy.
s 4 33 16 6a 8 2 40 2 58 25 S Derby and Bodmin Fairs. r 7 51 17 7 17 3 14 3 31 26 Seragesima Sunday.
s 4 36 18 8 27 3 47 4 3 27 M Chesterfield Fair.
r7 4819 9 38 4 18 4 35 28 T Buckingham Fair.
Is 4 40 2010 52 4 52 5 10 29 W Hereford S.C. (aristocratic). r 7 45 21 morn. 5 31 5 49 30 T Martyrdom of King Charles I. s 4 44 22 0 6 6 9 6 31 31 F Hilary Term ends.
Ir 7 4223 1 23 6 53 7 16
6 13 13 16
COURSING MEETINGS IN JANUARY.
STEEPLE CHASES IN JANUARY. Amicable (Epsom and Leatherhead) 2 & 3 Aberystwith....... Chapel Bank...
Thoi neon ., Morpeth (North Seaton)..
6 & 7 Luca l..... Union (Southport)
9 & 10 Eltha. and Woolwich Morpeth (Longhurst)....
9 & 10 Craven,, York (Match)
15, 17, & 18 Birming, wam (7th Hussars) not fixed. Morp ih (Trial)
22, 23, & 24 Brampton and Workington Spring. . Not fixed.
A DAY'S SNIPE SHOOTING IN THE FEN.
BY CHARLES WILLOWDALE.
Upon a bleak and solitary plain,
On Wednesday, the 4th of December, I sallied forth for a day in the Fen. The weather, up to this period, had been very mild, with no rain for the last three weeks; the flood of November had subsided, and the gunners gave notice of " lots of snipes.” A more certain criterion was to be found amongst the game-shops, whose boards and hooks had been diversified during the past week with many couple at 6d. a head. It is well known that as soon as the waters recede so far as to leave the banks dry by the dike side, the fenmen are on the alert with both springe and net, and the following week is generally the time for the sportsman to pay a visit to the Washes.
The morning was unusually fine for the season. There had been a slight frost in the early part of the night, but towards day-break there was a short change in the wind, followed by clouds, and for three or four hours it was evidently on the fret. Having roused my woman kind at five o'clock, I laid in a good foundation against the damp and chill of the Fens by half-past six, and was in the saddle within a few minutes after. It was hardly light as I left home, and, save the few early birds who are found from duty or habit abroad at that hour in December, all seemed to sleep, or as yet to “leave the world to darkness and to me.
There is a sense of pleasure in an early ride to cover, to fishing, or to shooting, which is found by none but the sportsman. To say nothing of the invigorating sensation from early rising, there is in the silence of the hour, the dimly-seen objects of day-break, the knowledge that one's companions are on their way to the rendezvous, and the few sounds which fall upon the ear, an indescribable charm in that early time. I soon beheld the distant spires of the neighbouring villages, the frowning heads of the woods, the topmost branches of the taller trees, the sails of two windmills, looming indistinct and dimly through the haze as I drew towards the confines of the Fens. Ere long a solitary cow-boy, followed by the labourers of the surrounding farms, were met or passed, while the fragrant odours from that “ king of the dwarfs,” a short pipe, greeted the nose as the former bespoke the stir of company to the eye. The river was now gained, and by and bye the barges, towed by one or two horses, approached, and I bethought me that it would be both wise and well to inquire what was astir on the river.
“Have you met any one in a gunning boat ?”
?" “ Only from the gravel.”
Very well, thought I; my man has passed that, some time no doubt, and I shall gather better tidings as I go on. The morning was now so far advanced that the eye was master of earth and air for half a mile and more, and shortly the whir of wings, that for some time past had left me in doubt as to what was passing, no longer remained a secret. The snipes were flying in very large wisps around on all sides. The golden-plover were in unusually large flocks. Ducks were visible in all directions, leaving the corn fields for the low lands; and several flocks of teal in rapid succession gave evidence that the Fens were all alive with fowl. Anon, a flash was seen in the distance, and ere long the loud dull echo of one of the great guns told that the gunner was busy in his vocation in the slap. I touched the pony once or twice with the spur, shook her head briskly, and accomplished three miles of my journey at a hand gallop, the turf of the bank affording good ground for it. I soon overtook my punt with the pole, ammunition, guns, and dry clothes; and after exchanging a few words with my man, cantered forward to lodge the nag and make ready for starting.
Now, I am not going to advocate dram drinking, nor to use arguments to persuade any one to turn his throat into a chimney for the reception of tobacco smoke; but every one who goes down into the Fens, unless he is master of a cigar, will do well to arm his stomach with a single wine-glass of gin before he commits himself to its chilly atmosphere in a December morning. Having entered the Wash, it became apparent that for some few hours to come the little frost had completely spoiled the sport, for the cat-ice cracked and broke like glass under foot, and the snipe, in consequence, rose in all directions by dozens. There was evidently a great plenty of birds, and, as the wind blew fairly from the north-east, good reason to believe that, as the sun got up, and the ice thawed, a good day's sport awaited us. About this time a string of ducks hove in sight, and after a few twistings and turnings, settled in one of those artificial pools which the gunners contrive for netting plover. Not a living soul was seen, but any one at all conversant with the Fen knows that six couple of whole birds (and there was that number at the least) can no more pass over, and much less settle in its bounds, without attracting the eyes of half as many gunners, and setting three or four in full motion for the shot. The rule is this: when any quantity of fowl are thus marked down, the man who lies nearest or best for the shot is, by common consent, allowed to shove his punt up to them, and take it; the others who are in, following in his wake, or at short distances, and then they share the spoil. Sometimes a well-known shot or a crack gun is allowed by his comrades to go in and fire; or, if a gentleman is present who wishes to blaze with the great gun, upon a given signal – a handkerchief hoisted on a sprit—the in go is conceded to him. Hit or miss, he pays, and that is the main object with the gunners, perhaps of the two they prefer the latter, as it ensures the tip equally well, and affords them another chance for the fowl. I gave the signal, and, although I never saw a human being, approached the fowl in full consciousness that the various drains and dikes having communication with the slap were tenanted by more than one punt in full pursuit of the fowl. The approach was an easy one for me; I had to pass down a dike, the current lying right for the birds — the width about ten feet, and the banks just high enough to screen me from their ever watchful eye; in fact, the place had been selected as vantage ground in these respects and more. Arrived at the corner of the dike, I had got within sixty yards of the ducks, and a very slight elevation of the gun brought it in full range upon seven of them. Bang! and there they were, fluttering, flapping, Aying, diving, dying; five killed, and two or three others, which sat beside the seven, wounded. One could just make a fly of it, and was shot from a hand gun which, with its owner, sprung up as if by magic from another drain; two were crippled and shortly brought to bag; and there, surrounded by no less than four punts, I stood or sat the hero of the day. The rest was soon arranged; a gallon of ale and some 'bacca amongst them; two couple of ducks paid for, and the monish divided amongst the gunners, while the rest of the birds belonged to me or my man; for he, his punt, and gun were all “ let out” for the day. I parted with my own gun and punt some time ago; a series of colds and two or three accidents had shaken out of me the inclination to much punting; and as the requisites can always be had for a day for five shillings, it is not worth the while to figure a proprietor one's self. A part of the bargain was, with me, that I should have my own again whenever I wanted them at a crown per diem. It has been said that one must serve an apprenticeship to every trade to be able to work at it; and the adage might go on to say, and journeyman's work also, before one can excel in it. Perhaps there is nothing more difficult to attain to than skill in punting, as well in the management of the little skiff itself as in the art and science of its gunnery. To work the punt well against wind and stream requires some practice, especially where the water is so deep that the progress must be by the hand-paddles, and not by the stalking sticks. Those who have watched a swan or any web-footed bird swimming, will have seen the principle of handpaddling in a punt. I cannot describe it better; and those who would practice it, and have not seen my model, will do well to watch the action of the bird's feet before they commence business in the canoe.
The progress by means of the stalking sticks is simple enough. Any one who can sprit a boat, can shove his punt along in shoal water with one stick, and of course with greater ease with two, until such time as the right hand is wanted near the trigger. In the shot I have mentioned the distance was short, sixty yards, being merely a long length for a good gun fired from the shoulder. But it is seldom that one can approach so near to a string of ducks; and when the distance is doubled, the wind blowing a breeze, and the water ruffled, considerable knowledge of the water and the wind is necessary to ensure sport. Without this the whole charge will be buried some feet beneath the birds, or whistle harmlessly above their heads. Independent of the motion from wind and water, it must be borne in mind that the greater the distance at which the object is placed, the greater difficulty the position assumes from the density and refraction of the atmosphere so constantly changing the curvature of the line of aim. Perhaps some of your readers are not aware that we do not see through the atmosphere in a straight line, but in a curve, regulated by distance, refraction, and the density of the atmosphere.
Fix a gun-barrel so that it cannot move, remove the breech, and place an object at such a distance that you can see it distinctly but no more, that object will be found constantly changed in position; sometimes not discernible, and again in another position, solely by atmospheric changes. One must allow for the wind, for the sun, for the water; and if the birds are on the move, in some slight degree for them also. In flight-shooting the simplest mode is to regulate the
gun to a range of six feet above the surface, at one hundred yards, and to fire as soon as the first bird is on the wing. This elevation may be gained by fixing the gun upon a board, or, as is frequently and adroitly done by our best gunners, throwing the weight into the stern of the punt, and thereby elevating her head. Enough of this, and perhaps too much ; for all that can be said, after all, upon the subject will be found better expressed in The Colonel's admirable chapters on punting and coast gunnery.
Having settled all points with the gunners, and listened to the news of the wash for the season-how three young gentlemen from Cambridge had excellent sport last week, while two others from London had none whatever, only on the other side the river-how Tant Osborn had filled his boat by flight-shooting at night, and Mussey Clarke had reaped a golden harvest among the teal and plover-İ turned back to the snipe-grounds, and commenced beating. For a time the ice still scared the birds, but as the sun's power increased, the effects of but one night's frost gradually gave way, and by eleven o'clock the birds lay well, and the sport was excellent. Time rolled on-one o'clock came, and with it sandwiches and grog; brandy and water against the world in the fen! After that, until three o'clock, the sport was brilliant. I scarcely walked ten yards without flushing a snipe. There was a fair wind, and not too much sun.
The only thing against me was the want of cover. The dry summer, followed by as dry an autumn, had caused the beast and cattle to be kept longer in the Wash than usual ; and they had in consequence cropped the herbage pretty closely. With this exception, and it was only partial, all was as it should be. One may go down fifty times and not meet with such a chance. On the eve of frost the snipes always lay well, and are in capital
I never killed finer birds than on this day, and a bag of eighteen couple, with two couple and a-half lost in the reeds, or beyond the river, is a test of the excellence of the sport. Nor was this all. I got a shot or two (and always in luck) at the flocks of whistling or golden plover, which my man called down or within shot by that imitation of the bird's own call, which every gunner of the fens can accomplish so readily. A wild duck and a couple of