Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The wren and the barrow

West Kennet Long Barrow
Today I took a spontaneous day off work due to a head cold and, as I didn't feel ill enough to stay indoors all day, I took myself off out to Avebury in the hope of clearing my head. Once there, I did one of my favourite walks across to Waden Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow. Walking towards the barrow, all I could hear was the song of the skylarks that always seem to be rise from the fields over there. However, as I drew close to the entrance of the barrow I was enchanted to see a wren, flitting from stone to stone with its familiar 'chit-chat'. The wren is one of my favourite birds as anyone reading might guess from the name of this Blog; whenever I see one it feels like a good sign - that all will be well and that 'I do not walk alone'. The wren stayed for a few seconds before flitting off into the grass and for a few minutes there was complete silence - I could no longer even hear the skylarks. This evening while doing some research on the wren I read that they roost together in little colonies in the cold weather and I wondered whether they had been roosting inside the barrow.
There is much folk-lore associated with the wren relating to winter solstice time. I would just say here, however, that in my previous post 'Birds on Bare Branches' I said that the robin is symbolic of winter and for many of us it is. However, in folk-lore the reverse is true, the robin is associated with summer and the Oak-king while the wren represents winter and the Holly-king. Ancient folk-lore has it that the robin kills the wren at mid-winter (hence the red breast) and it is true that the wren was hunted on St Stephen's day (though revered for the rest of the year) and killed, presumably as a sacrifice.
The inside if West Kennet Long Barrow - where wrens have possibly been roosting. The scientific name for the wren is Troglodytes troglogdytes - which means cave dweller, after the wren's preference for cave like places.
For information about skylarks who now have endangered status see: