Just the day before yesterday I was ecstatic. I was on my daily walk up my hill into nature. I had seen the stoat, close up, carrying a rabbit it had killed, dragging it along the lane. I had watched a kestrel hovering, looking for a vole. I had delighted in the beautiful blue cornflowers that had appeared on the verges and felt good at the succession of wonderful wildflowers that had appeared on the wide verges.
Nature, during lockdown, was sustaining me.
Either side of that lane were wide verges – up to five metres wide and going the length of the lane. They were a nature reserve for herb and fur, for insect and bird. Those verges gave life and refuge to nature.
Heaven knows there is little of nature left. The insects have been decimated. The space for wildlife greatly reduced. Ponds have been filled, hedges grubbed up so that big farm machinery can operate more efficiently, streams are culverted, trees cut down and what is left is very little, and diminishing by the day.
When I was a boy there were meadows of long grass and wildflowers, alive with bees, butterflies, beetles and grasshoppers. The skies were full of swallows and swifts. There were frogs, newts and toads in the ponds, sticklebacks in the streams and caterpillars in hedges and trees. Even that was merely the rump of what had once been when Britain was one great forest, but it seemed rich and enriching.
Over the years I have seen that richness eroded. No longer the bees and butterflies, flocks of swifts are down to a few, no more hedgehogs flattened in the roads. Nature is greatly reduced.
My daily walks up the hill during lockdown has been delightful. I have seen so much living in that strip of nature. It was a haven. Every day I would go up there not knowing what I might spot. It was a thrill in these barren times.
Looking out over the green fields one might be fooled into to thinking that nature is all around us. It isn’t. Those green fields are a barren desert, lethal to life. They are sprayed with pesticide and herbicide so that any ‘weed’ or ‘pest’ that dares to intrude is destroyed.
The verges and remaining hedgerows are the last refuges for nature and even they are threatened by the drift of those deadly sprays.
It was a shock. It felt like a punch. The whole of the five-metre verges, all the brambles and undergrowth, all the wildflowers and grasses, the habitat for millions of insects, the seeds to feed the birds, the homes and food for the voles and mice, had been destroyed, mown flat. It was vandalism on a huge scale.
What were the stoats going to feed on now? Where were the voles for the kestrel and barn owl? Where were the insects for the swift and swallow? All gone! Destroyed.
The whole nature reserve along the Wold Road was a barren desert, like the fields around it.
Seemingly there is neither use nor room for nature anymore. It is untidy, an inconvenience, even an irritation.
Unless we start to value it, make space for it and protect it, we will not have anything left for our grandchildren to thrill at. Surely it deserves to be given space to live? Surely enough of us care? We value the bird song and the sight of our wonderful wildlife, don’t we?
Was it just ignorance? Or was it malice? Did someone just want to make it look tidier? Or did someone want to be rid of all those creatures and plants?
What is the basis of this ignorant policy?
It makes me feel sad, angry and ashamed.