A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

Anne Maybrick’s

Preston Scrapbook (1953) Part Five

Recreations

Preston seems to have had a keen dramatic sense for several generations. Cheerful concert parties were organised by the Pryor brothers, who used to tour the neighbouring parishes with them in a wagonette.

 

Comic Cricket matches were played for charity.

A kind of Skittles was played outside the Chequers for years.

 

In about 1920, there was a keen Country Dance Team which carried off several County prizes.

The Drama Group of the Women's Institute has entertained it's members regularly with plays and won two County successes in Festivals with scenes from Shakespeare's plays.

 

There is also a flourishing Football and Cricket Club and Darts Teams in all the pubs, the Farmer's Boy at Langley being particularly keen.

WI Drama - ‘Mrs Buggins’

Country Dance Team - Mary Ashton, Gladys Durholm, Wynne Darton, Kate Ashton, Maggie Jenkins,

Maggie Wray

‘Twelfth Night’ - Drama Festival 1952

Preston Cricket team - 1924c.

(Above and below) Hertfordshire Hunt at Preston Green

Wild animals

Preston and Langley don't appear to be very 'wild' in their animal life. Perhaps the most interesting visitor is a stray Barking Deer from Woburn Park (shown right). These little animals, looking like large hares whose legs have evened up, have been seen in the fields round both of the villages. They turn up in strange places. One was found behind a water tank in the garden of a public house in Whitwell.

 

There are the usual quota of hares, rabbits and hedgehogs and the grey squirrel but not, unfortunately, the red one; and far too many foxes for the liking of outlying farmers and poultry keepers.

 

A war time harvest helper of a rather urban type assured the men on the farm that he had seen a porcupine in the hedge, but to his disgust , nobody believed him and he couldn't find it again to show to them.

 

The birds of Preston and Langley

 

Preston, being a high village for Hertfordshire, is perhaps a bit bleak for much bird life, but this makes the sight of a rarer bird all the more exciting when it does appear. Such a one was the Shelldrake which came to Hill Farm one Easter Week End. It stayed, swimming majestically on the pond until the noise of starting tractors shattered the peace on the Tuesday morning. A stuffed Shelldrake stands in the hall of Temple Dinsley, which seems to point to an earlier visitor who did not receive such a kind welcome.

 

The little Goldcrests have been seen, and more often heard, in the larches of a small plantation. Two years running, a single Buzzard has flown low over the harvest field and then soared high into the sky in wide circles before flying away to the west. Often one is accompanied for a walk by a party of cheerful little Long Tailed Tits, flitting from tree to tree and twittering shrilly all the time. Once a Brambling flew in front of the car for about a mile down a narrow lane, showing his black back and white rump to perfection.

 

The Greater Spotted Woodpecker fed regularly in the garden of the Post Office, but no one saw it's nest. On the other hand, a Kestrel's nest in the stump of an Elm was visited by a boy who took two of the four eggs. She hatched out the other two and was often to be seen with her gawky chicks on the elm stump.

 

Langley can boast a Black Redstart seen on the Hill side in 1952 and comments on the fact that the Hawfinch seems to be getting more common. The little Tree Creeper has been seen in both villages, and the Nightingale cheers us all with her glorious song, until some people have been heard to complain that they can get no sleep. In one garden in Crunnell's Green, she fed her shrilly squeaking family almost on the doorstep.

 

Watercolour sketches of rarer birds and butterflies (below) at Preston by EJS

Butterflies and moths

 

The Butterfly population seems to change each season. In 1952 the Wall Brown and the Meadow Brown were everywhere, but in 1953 it is the turn of the Little Tortoiseshell and hardly a Brown is to be seen.

 

The Comma, which has been rare for some time, seems to be on the increase and has been seen frequently round Preston and Langley since 1937. One year the Humming-Bird Hawk-Moth made its appearance. It was seen in several gardens hovering in front of petunias and other bright flowers in the late Summer. Its way of poising in front of a flower on rapidly vibrating wings making it look exactly like a miniature Humming Bird.

 

The Cinnabar seems to haunt one small clearing in a plantation although its yellow and black caterpillars are to be seen wherever the Ragwort flourishes."

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