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11 - 'You don't see banties...'  

Many of the changes which have taken place happen so gradually, that only the older people realise that they have changed at all.  Keeping domestic animals as pets, rather than for food, is one such change.  As one older resident reminisced:

'Many of us young 'uns used to keep rabbits, banties and such like.  We'd scrounge feed from the farmers, then roll the oats in Cobbler's rollers that he used for the leather...'.

Like both the Cobbler, and his roller, 'banties' have gone. 

There are perhaps only three households in the village who now keep poultry, compared with the majority of families some 50 years ago.  Similarly, there are probably only two farmers who now have livestock, in buildings, within the village.  Traffic sounds are probably heard from some direction 90% of the day, and there is air traffic to consider - both from the Armed Services, commercial aircraft and private use. 

There is no sound of the Pump pumping water from the Foss up to the Hall, no sound of the old men breaking up cobbles all day long on the green.  (They were broken by hand, and used to repair roads and tracks.)  There is no smell of 'night soil' drifting on the wind, or the occasional smell of a load of manure, but we now get the more intensive smell of slurry being spread, or the chemical smells of pesticides and fertilisers.  

There are certainly fewer trees and hedgerows with the change in farming methods, and fewer birds calling, as their habitat and food supply have changed.  Ground nesting birds have certainly suffered with less grassland and meadow available, and we have seen the demise of the corncrake, with its distinctive call, from this area. 

Vermin such as foxes, magpies and carrion crows were kept in control by frequent shooting.  Young rooks were shot, and rook pie was a regular meal at that time of year.  Rabbits were shot or trapped, and sold for food.  Rabbit pie was regularly served up by the landlady of the Bay Horse, when the Church tenants came to pay their annual rent.  The number of rats and mice was greater around the farms and stack-yards.  Grain is now stored indoors, or in silos, and the vermin are controlled with 'rentokil stuff' (although Rentokil is actually the name of a company).  Local gamekeepers used ferrets to catch rabbits, and stray dogs were liable to be shot on sight.  There would also be a stoat and weasel count at the end of each season.  The carcasses were hung in line on fencing, just as dead moles were hung up after the mole catcher had been doing his rounds.  Visible proof, for all to see, that the job was being done thoroughly. 

Hundreds of rabbits were sickeningly affected by the myxomatosis outbreak in the early 1950s - a consequence of an attempt at biological control which went wrong.  What had once been the foxes' staple diet was no longer desirable.  Foxes had to change their eating habits, and were even known to take cats as food. A more common sight is game birds such as partridges and pheasants which were originally introduced solely for sport shooting.  Pheasants are still bred for shooting, and perhaps a third of their numbers are taken, with the remainder falling mainly to foxes - either directly, or as carrion after an encounter with a motor vehicle.  Dwindling habitats and free-roaming dogs mean the chances of birds rearing young outside protected rearing areas are limited. 

The owls of Stillington have declined since the 1970s, with the general 'tidying up' and removal of their usual habitats - the old barns and open sheds of the farms and small holdings - and the change in their food supply.  The bat population has suffered in a similar way. House shutters used to be a favourite resting place for these creatures.  The last rookery in Stillington Parish went with the removal of some of the larger trees in the Vicarage garden in the 1960s. 

The filling in of ponds, efficient drainage of land, fertilisers, pesticides and past contamination by sewerage, all contributed to a decline in waterlife.  Dace, roach, the odd perch, chubb, pike and eels were all remembered living in the river Foss, and many field and roadside ditches harboured eels.  Today, kingfishers are no longer seen near the waterfall, otters have gone, and water voles are rare.  Frogs, toads and newts are harder to find, and are more easily found in garden ponds than in the wild.Wild flowers were part of the scene in meadows, and on the road and track sides.  Workmen who were ditching used to replant any that had been moved.  However, all is not lost, seeds still remain and will regenerate when they are allowed to do so.  Badgers are now a protected species, and their numbers are on the increase.  Farmers saw very few in the 1940s, and their numbers were kept down later, following a possible connection with Tuberculosis infections in cattle.  Despite the area's former status as a hunting forest, deer were virtually unknown in the 1940s, but residents now often comment on sightings in and around the village.