Burderop Park, now the HQ of Halcrow, in Jefferies’ time was owned by the Calley family. In his 1880 book ‘Round About a Great Estate’ he referred to it as Okebourne Chace.

The great house at Okebourne Chace stands in the midst of the park, and from the southern windows no dwellings are visible. Near at hand the trees appear isolated, and above them rises the distant Down crowned with four tumuli.

In the enclosed portion of the park at Okebourne the boughs of the trees descended and swept the sward. Nothing but sheep being permitted to graze there, the trees grew in their natural form, the lower limbs drooping downwards to the ground. In that part of the park no cattle had fed in memory of man; so that the lower limbs, drooping by their own weight, came arching to the turf. Each tree thus made a perfect bower.

The old woodmen told me it used to be said that elm ought only to be thrown on two days of the year – i.e. the 31st of December and the 1st of January… it should be cut at the ‘very dead of the year’ when the sap had retired, so that the timber might last longer. They took the greatest trouble to get their timber well seasoned, which is why the woodwork in old houses has endured so well.

Passing under some elms one June evening, I heard a humming overhead, and found it was caused by a number of bees busy in the upper branches at a great height. They were probably after the honey-dew.

In the open glades of the Chace there were noble clumps of beeches, and if you walked quietly under them in the still October days you might hear a slight, but distinct sound above you. This was caused by the teeth of a squirrel nibbling the beech-nuts, and every now and then down came pieces of husk rustling through the coloured leaves. Sometimes a nut would fall which he had dropped; and yet, with the nibbling sound to guide you, it was not always easy to distinguish the little creature.

Trees may be said to change their garments thrice in the season. In the spring the woods of Okebourne were of the tenderest green, which, as the summer drew on, lost its delicacy of hue. Then came the ‘midsummer shoot’, brightening them with fresh green. The second shoot of the oak is reddish: there was one oak in the Chace which after midsummer became ruddy form the highest to the lowest branch. Lastly came the brown and yellow autumn tints.

Lower down a large pond almost filled the hollow. It was surrounded on three sides by trees and thickets; on the fourth an irregular margin of marshy grass extended. Floating leaves of weeds covered the surface of the water; these had not been disturbed for years, and there was no check to their growth except their own profusion, for they choked each other. The pond had long ceased to supply fish for the table. Before railways brought the sea so near, such ponds were very useful.

From ‘Round About a Great Estate’, 1880.

The Richard Jefferies Museum is open on the 2nd Wednesday of each month between 10am and 4pm. From May to the end of September it is also open Sundays 2 - 5pm. For special arrangements, phone Jean Saunders on 01793 783040.