Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Undercoverts of Birding 1: The Flying Childers.

Perhaps more than any other hobby (or compulsion?) birding takes us all over the country, possibly from one end to the other in a good twitching weekend.  Thus we discover hidden hamlets and unknown lanes, meet interesting characters and have unexpected experiences that our non-birding friends, loafing at home with their sedentary hobbies, never do. 
Such travels have associated tales worthy of telling that never get told, not strictly about birds they get no mention in the news-stand birding glossies.  So here they are given a home and a name, for which a birding reference is requisite.  Something to infer the background of birding activities, and so The Undercoverts of Birding is born. 
The first undercovert concerns a pub we all whistle past on the way to Frampton Marsh or Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire.  It is The Flying Childers at Kirby Bellars, which looks like a spelling mistake.  Was it supposed to be Guilders, or Builders?  Or Chilblains or Cinders?  Unfortunately none of these things are known for flying around showing aeronautical prowess so it cannot be them.
A look in the dictionary tells us that ‘childers’ is an old fashioned name for children, but ‘flying children’ makes no sense either.  They are no more known for flying around than builders, or badgers.  In fact the childers-children thing is just a coincidental red herring.  There is a clue on the pub’s sign though, a racehorse in full gallop and indeed the pub is actually named after a horse, a very special horse.
The Flying Childers was a racehorse who was the first foal sired by the Darley Arabian, one of the three founding stallions of the Thoroughbred breed imported to Britain in the 17th Century.  With such illustrious genes it is hardly surprising that Flying Childers won every race he was ever entered in, by the proverbial country mile.  His owner, The Duke of Devonshire, had to turn down an offer to buy the horse for its weight in gold!  To be frank he would have left Frankel eating flying divots, but still the question remains, why ‘Childers’?  Why was that a name for a horse? 
It was simply his breeder’s name, one Colonel Leonard Childers.  Intrigued by the name I looked it up on and found that it hails from Norfolk, and a long gone village called Childerhouse.  This is the root of the name Childers, and comes from Old English ‘Cildra’ (child) and ‘Hus’ (house), as apparently there was a home and school for children there.  So the red herring is not so much of a red herring after all, more of a pink one really!
So the next time you are squashed into the back of a car on the way to Frampton to twitch an oriental pratincole, you can break the customary pre-tick tension with tales of Flying Childers and pink herrings as you scream through Kirby Bellars.  On the way back with the bird safely ticked and travelling at a more sedate and law-abiding pace you could even call in for a pint!
The Flying Childers - lots in a name!

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