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The Fernhurst Society

Memories of Fernhurst: country lore

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The country people of Fernhurst, who had always lived in the same cottage and tilled their land, were very conscious of the calls of nature. To them a dunnock or hedge sparrow was a hedge betty, a thrush was always a mavis and the wee wren, a scutty. In the last century a while blackbird caused great consternation in the village, as it was believed to bring ill-luck to the house or garden upon which it perched. Luckily it disappeared into the woods and its life was saved.

There was also the belief that a magpie will never perch on a building that is liable to fall down and that a tree with a magpie’s nest is always safe to stand underneath.

Memory tells how very much the occupiers of thatched cottages hoped for house martins to build nests in the eaves, as this meant good fortune to the household. The martins and swallows still nest in the older houses and barns, along with the tawny owl, which was called by Old Peter that ‘Ollering Owl’, the common Sussex name for that bird.

The deer had his home in the woods around Fernhurst, especially on Bexley Hill, but has only been seen on rare occasions during the last few years in the Fernhurst woods.

Badgers were found at The Mill Hanger and red squirrels shared the woods in which nightingales sing in the spring during dusk and daylight hours.

Even now the lesser bindweed is called hug-me-tight, a hare bell my lady’s thimble and the cowslip, the keys of heaven.

The countryman’s philosophy handed down by grandparents is, ‘If you’ve earned what you’ve got by working, keep it, even if it’s not very much, but don’t envy your neighbours the things you haven’t worked for’.


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Oral History Project




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The Fernhurst Oral History Project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative. The Local Heritage Initiative was developed by the Countryside Agency and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nationwide Building Society.