I’m sorry to say that the three hares are only straw decorations on a thatched cottage in Bishops Cannings. I am enjoying my walks around local villages, venturing further each day from my home base – a break from lockdown and writing. The world may be opening up but I still enjoy these small distractions – things to amuse and make you think.
It’s a pleasure to see real hares, of course, usually leaping about in fields of long grass. But also representations of them in art are well established in our culture and beautiful to see interpreted in different ways.
Matthew Dennison, who writes for The Field, considers why Britain’s fastest land mammal continues to fascinate us.
Here’s a poem on the subject from a poet who was a countryman, sensitive to the natural world
His biographer Jonathan Bate writes: ‘The greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.‘
The birds are gone to bed the cows are still
And sheep lie panting on each old mole hill
And underneath the willows grey green bough
Like toil a resting – lies the fallow plough
The timid hares throw daylights fears away
On the lanes road to dust and dance and play
Then dabble in the grain by nought deterred
To lick the dewfall from the barleys beard
Then out they sturt again and round the hill
Like happy thoughts dance squat and loiter still
Till milking maidens in the early morn
Giggle their yokes and start them in the corn
Through well known beaten paths each nimbling hare
Sturts quick as fear – and seeks its heavy lair.
The best place to see hares – in action, so to speak, according to The Wildlife Trust :
The great flat expanses of the Fens are as good a place to spot boxing hares as any: try visiting the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserves at Willow Tree Fen or Baston Fen and check the fields in between the two. Other good places to try include:
- Derbyshire, Woodside Farm
- Devon, Meeth Quarry
- Durham, Rainton Meadows
- Essex, Blue House Farm
- Lancashire, Brockholes
- Lincolnshire, Willow Tree Fen
- Lincolnshire, Baston Fen
- Norfolk, Upton Broad and Marshes
- Sussex, Malling Down