The mighty Cheese Eagle. As it soars over the landscape of the Cheddar Gorge, it is all too easy to forget that this bird, once hunted as a pest, is now on the UK endangered species list along with the Winged Vole and the Jelly Weasel.
But who could forget the once common sight of the local gentry in pursuit of this majestic creature? Now the preserve of villages keen to convey a folk-inspired and lively history while all the time hiding the fact that their landmarks consist of a pub and a very steep hill – Cheese rolling stems from attempts to lure the Cheese Eagle out of hiding by throwing a Double Gloucester down an incline. The Lords would hide at the bottom to pick off the cheese-frenzied birds with a rifle.
Now these poor animals, having been pushed to the brink, are more likely to be seen nesting above your local Budgens. They survive as opportunist thieves, carrying off the occasional fishnet bag of Mini Babybel being absent-mindedly loaded into the back of a Nissan Primera.
They rear their young almost exclusively on a diet of Oude kaas Gouda, a rare commodity in and around Cheddar. Luckily, the adult Cheese Eagle has adapted and is less choosy, happily preying on Applewood Smoked or even a cheap Roulade.
The female Cheese Eagle, being incredibly shy, has been known only to break cover in dire times. The most infamous occurrence being the attack on a farmers market in Saxmundham where yellow-corded stall-holders were forced to shelter behind their Volvos. Nearly twenty blocks of pungent Limburger were lost that fateful day.
Luckily for the Cheese Eagle, there are people who have dedicated their time to helping this reduced animal. Betty and Duncan Knockfelt run the Essex Cheese Eagle Sanctuary at Bures St. Mary.
‘It’s impossible to know the total number of nesting pairs left in the UK’ says Betty. ‘At last count, Essex had fewer than 1,250,000 but in the rest of the country, who knows? Well, actually we do have numbers for all counties in England but, to tell the truth we got bored adding them up.’
Duncan adds ‘We bought a calculator, but the symbols on it confused us to be honest. Whatever, there’s a limited number about. Sort of in the region of grey squirrels at a guess. Maybe more…’
Regardless of actual figures, the Cheese Eagle will continue to inspire and awe in equal amounts. We can only hope that with the tireless and committed work of people like Betty and Duncan, it will long cast its impressive shadow across our fair isle.
Gary did it – By Jimmy Spaff
He did you know,
I saw him too,
Gave him legs,
Of daring do,
He swims like crayons,
In seas of Rainham,
Gary did it,
In the Planetarium
He folded the cheese,
Like a Spaniard cake,
I based his head,
On Quentin Blake,
Sun bleached quads,
Of furious moles,
Gary did it,
On gout-filled shoals
Did you see him,
Does he know,
Boats are chasing,
His old baby grows,
Most like a fleeting,
Of chaps looking grim,
Gary did it,
I bloody well saw him
Welcome to the first of a new series – nature ramblings with Barry Frontalcheese. Every now and again, mostly if it’s a bit slack at work one day, Barry will be regaling you loyal Monkeybrothers with tales of the countryside. This week Barry sheds some light on the mystically ancient and mystical rural art of going for a poo in a tree.
Arguably there is nothing quite so quintessentially English as the ancient and mysterious ritual of pooing in trees. Many mistakenly believe that it was the Vikings who, while they were having a much deserved break from raping and pillaging, first introduced this wonderful tradition to these shores. However, while pooing in trees is mentioned in the Doomsday Book index under ‘P’, it’s not until much later that the mystically ancient, mystic and mystical ritual of pooing in trees really entered the English psyche.
For those of who you may be from abroad or London, pooing in trees is a form of English excretion usually accompanied by music. It is based on the rhythmic squatting and grunting by a group of men who poo in trees, or the ‘pappers’ of rural legend. Women were never allowed to honk one out at height – following a decree by papal envoys to England who, in 1470, stated that ‘womene who pooeth in the trees will be besette by licce and furevver live in synne.’
Implements such as sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells were traditionally wielded by the pappers as they sat and squeezed in the high boughs of oak trees, which, by a country mile, were the pappers of legend favourite receptacle. In a small number of rituals, the act of pushing out some dirty sausages, or the ‘papping’ was carried out while a young virgin girl from the local village stood at the foot of the chosen tree and shrilly blew a clay whistle to ward off both evil spirits and any foul maleveont odours.
Claims that English records dating back to 1448 mention pooing in trees are perhaps inaccurate. There is no mention of papping or pappers earlier than the late 15th century, although early records such as Bishops’ Pappis de bogge de tre mention pooing on tree roots, ‘hooling’ or urinating on bark to ward off evil spirits, and other papping style practices, such as the use of leaves, sticks and badger corpses as rudimentary cleft cleansing devices. Modern historians now agree that these Tudor practices bore the fruit of the modern pooing in trees movement.
These days and quite correctly doing a number two in a big tree is commonly thought of as a mainly English activity, although there are around 150 ‘papping’ groups in Iowa, Arizona and Northern Canada. British Expatriates have also done much to spread the art of fudging on a big branch in the Far East and Australasia, where up until 1963 it was still legal to wipe one’s crack on a live Koala.
Other countries too have their own dumping in undergrowth traditions, perhaps none more so than Austria and the small Alpine town of Vorsprungdurchtechnik. Each year, residents of the town clamour together in a small field to the west of the village to clear their pipes in the thick gorse bushes so renowned in the area. Indeed, a small statue Crappenupindetrees made by Erasmus Rubber in 1768 stands tall and erect as a reminder of the town’s pride in its outdoor brown drowning traditions. Visitors come from far and wide to see the spectacle and its not unknown for protagonists to bake one in the tummy oven for days before the event, to ensure those attending do not leave disappointed.For myself and all purists though, snipping off Chewbacca’s fingers in a tree will remain an English tradition – one remaining bastion against the legion of foreign imports which so blight our land, like Burger King, Clinton Cards, Curry’s Electrical, pancakes and vegetable samosas.
More rural rumblings from Britain’s foremost idiot Barry Frontalcheese next time folks!
Yo, (I can be pretty ‘Street’ when I need to be guys)
I know you’ve all been waiting for my latest post, so Peter’s going to put you out of your misery and brighten your day.
At our restaurant just off the trail at the summit of Pendle Hill, we employ only the tallest chiefs to ensure quality at altitude, not attitude. No hair guaranteed! Stool kicking included in the price.
Betty Boop in a zoot suit soup
Grindings of gas with a Volvo boot strut
A frotting of loose chippings
Gnat sack goujons with a ships bilge topping
Scooter spleen splunked on a beaver farm
A flag of nappy cheese extolled in the virtues of space travel
Moist retching geese (retched at your table for freshness)
Pudding will be..
Notable by its heavy sigh.
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