A great part of the parish of Feltwell is Fen-land, and Baring-Gould in his book "Cheap Jack Zita," written when Rector of Prickwillow, near Ely, speaks of a superstition held by Fen-folk. It is that of a strange sound in the sky as though a huntsman with his pack of hounds were passing overhead, and Fen-folk explain it as the sound of evil spirits chasing a human soul. They have taken scent of it from the bottomless pit and the great hunter of souls opens the kennel door and they burst forth in full cry. If the soul is nimble it holds its own and slips in at Heaven's Gate leaving the evil spirits to yelp outside.
In the Introduction to his book on the Birds of Norfolk, Stevenson says that the true Fen-man was seriously believed in other counties to be born with a speckled belly and webbed feet. He also says that a Fen-man did not consider his Sunday dinner complete without roast bittern. The Fen-man is not alone in having remarks made on a certain part of his body. An old-time writer explains that Norfolk people are celebrated for their healthy constitutions from eating such vast quantities of dumplings which has produced the nick-name of "Norfolk Dumplings" as the eating of beans so much in Leicestershire has nick-named the people "Leicestershire Bean-bellies" and in Lincolnshire "Yellow-bellies."
In his article on the Common Bittern, now a very rare bird, Stevenson quotes information supplied in 1853 by William Spencer, a Feltwell thatcher, who came of a game-keeping family, that Bitterns, or Bottleybumps as they were called from their peculiar cry, used to be plentiful in the Fens, selling for one shilling a-piece. They were most common round about Poppylot, and Spencer's uncle, a game-keeper, once shot five in one day.
Roast Bittern appears to have been a favourite dish with our forefathers, which may account for the scarcity of this bird. At a very large feast made by the Archbishop of York at his Enthronement, A.D. 1466, among the provisions were 204 Bitters as they were then called, and "Bitters Roste" formed part of the third and last course. Other items in the last course, curiously enough, were Larks and Martins, also "Porpose Roste."
Snipe at one time were extremely plentiful in the Fens. The game-books of Mr. E. Clough Newcome, of Feltwell Hall, showed that as many as 653 Snipes were bagged in the year 1841, one of the best days being September 6th , when he and his brother killed fifty-six.
In January, 1876, a male specimen of the Great Bustard appeared in a Fen near Feltwell, the property of Mr. H. M. Upcher.
A bird which, from the description given, appears to have been a Cornish Chough, a great rarity for Norfolk, was killed in Feltwell Fens some twelve years ago.
Montagu's Harrier, a regular visitant to Feltwell Fens before the war, has completely disappeared. C. A. Johns, in his British Birds, describes Montagus Harrier as a bird of rare occurrence in Britain.
According to Miller's Book, "The Fenlands," the remains of the people of the Stone Age are found at one place only in the Fens, that is at Shrub Hill, Feltwell.
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