Sketching an old farm house, was somewhat discouraged by the occupants bringing out a very finished real “ile” painting of the same by an itinerant artist 20 years ago and sold to them on the spot for 7/6. After-wards we did a smart mile to the Queen’s Arms where we consumed pints of bitter beer with biscuits and cheese. Good fun this morning acting as a driver. We went helter-skelter down lanes, over fields, ditches, and brambles and made the pace whenever we got a chance. The countryside is thick with blackberries which are just beginning to ripen and what appear to be small wild plums. Plenty of woodbine in flower and although it is not springtime the fields are gay with wild daisies and other flowers, with occasional red poppies. In most of the cottage gardens are yellow daisies and red hollyhocks.
Note: R. has taken kindly to the big sock and is going to get a girl friend to knit a mate for it. Went forth towards Fleet where we hired a canoe and paddled about on a disused canal. After nearly 2 hours on the water we made for the nearest pub, and back to camp in the dark.
[Mounted New Zealand troops towing transport at a training camp in England during World War I, Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association: New Zealand official negatives, National Library, 1/2-013887-G]
Plenty of aeroplanes about this evening; saw them do the spiral or corkscrew descent. Was in the riding for the first time today and was the first one to be classed “1” (1, 2, and 3 class) so can’t have forgotten how to ride. R. is on guard tonight and I sent him facetious messages in semaphore across the parade ground, including “Crapaud” and almost upset the solemnity due to his duty. Got “one on to” R. today. Found an enormous sock, big enough for an elephant, and left it on his bunk – he has stupendous feet – elevens.
[Crapaud is a French word meaning “toad”]
A year today since I arrived in Featherston camp – that probably explains the fact that I am a bit off colour with a headache. I put it down to living chiefly on dried beans and dried peas – two things I don’t fancy. This district is well farmed, but is so well wooded that you would have to be in an aeroplane to realise it. Instead of the cobble stones of Lancashire we here have fine hard yellowy-white sandstone roads – the main roads being mostly asphalted. This is a land of cyclists – you see them everywhere and in every village or centre are cycle shops or motor garages. Another feature (apparently it is so all over England) is the wonderful tidiness of most of the cottages old and new – they usually look scrupulously clean within and without – pots of geranium on the windowsills and tidy little gardens of bright flowers and green vegetables, with brick paths. Did I tell you how the Lancashire folk even in the most squalid slums make it shine qua non to keep their door-stones clean and may be seen scrubbing them all hours. Most of the pubs here have square signboards, stuck out in the road, divided by a coloured diagonal stroke and usually named the (something) “Arms”, whereas in Lancashire they are all “Inns”, “Brown Cows” and so forth.
Walked to Crondall where we went round the village and saw a lovely Elizabethan-looking inn, the top storey projecting over the street and all the walls interlaced with great brown-black oak beams. Church plain and solid with small narrow and deeply recessed windows, coloured in soft tones; others more modern in design and colouring. The centre supported by two rows of great round stone pillars, the walls immensely thick – ancient inscriptions on the walls, massive oak pulpit and big plain stone-hewn font. The tower is of brick and must have a cubic content almost equal to the church proper and be of much more modern date. Around one side of the church and leading to the main gate is an avenue of immense, symmetrical and lofty lime trees. We went back to the Elizabethan inn and had some cider (ngum! ngum!) then to a rum little cottage kept by a one-legged man and his missus, who provided tea, fried eggs, bread and jam, and apples, of which we had a good guzzle and behold! – a plate branded “Northern Steamship Coy. Auckland” – where had she got it from? A china shop nearby. It’s a fairly small world.
[Lincoln Lee, sketch of Crondall Church, 1917]
[Image of The Feathers Inn, Crondall, 1906, sourced from here. Possibly the ‘Elizabethan-looking inn” referred to by Lincoln]
The last two reinforcements like the previous two had kit-inspections as they arrived and lost all their private gear. We were luckier and able to conceal everything we wanted and seeing what a long time we have remained in England, it was well worth while – pyjamas, etc. coming in handy. Had a yarn with a decent well-spoken little body, whose hubby has been at the war from the beginning. The country folk whom we have bespoken here in Hants have a good intonation of voice and spoken English without dialect. When I got back behold – three letters awaiting me. The rogues in the hut spread them out on my blankets with bogus ones between to make me think I had about a dozen.
Driving drill this morning. Went out with Monsieur R (he knows a bit of French and we are going to try to brush it up). Went up hill past Ewshot and on to a sort of plateau used as Military area, waste and stony, with “McWhirter” silver beeches and heather. Good view of Aldershot. Wandered into a pine-grove and did sketches of wheat-stooks and distance (the real patchwork panoramas of England). Wandered on to a village called Crondall and have decided that Crondall will do us. It looks as old as the hills with quaint white cottages, with inlet beams; and a square towered church about 800 years old. The countryside is dotted over with villages and is a real job. I keep wanting to leave the army and rent a cottage for you and me to pass next summer in. What think you?
[New Zealand Artillery soldiers with gun carriages, Ewshot, c1918. National Library, ref 1/2-014101-G]
A portion of every day seems at this season to be wet. A shower is followed by an hour’s sunshine and the cloud effects are magnificent. In travelling about England I have been surprised to find a great deal of standing timber. There may be a few large forests, but every field in the clean counties is dotted with trees. They are now one heavy mass of verdure and I am hoping to see them in autumn.
8.30. p.m. Walked through the pretty hillside village of Ewshot from which the camp gets its name, and on about 3 miles further along a ridge, through magnificent vistas of oaks, beeches and pines, interspersed with mountain ashes which are a mass of bright scarlet berries, a lovely sight and quite antipodean; like some Australian flower.
In the meadows, which are the richest green contrasting with the brown and yellow harvest-fields, are plenty of purple heather and penny-royal. All the ways are thick with stinging nettles which give us gyp when we touch them. Many cottages are covered with ivy, or viginian creeper, looking olden and homey. In places we saw plantations of young larches. Too late for a beer as the pubs here close at 9, but consoled by finding unusually large, speckly and deliberate toad crawling across the road. I lit a match to see him better and stroked his horny back – he disdained to croak – do toads croak? Got back to find many men in receipt of N.Z. letters, but none for poor me. Eheu! Helas! Ai! Ai! Waly! Waly! Miserere! Wae’s me! What can have happened to them?
[Lincoln Lee, sketch of heather, Ewshot, 1917]