Wednesday 11 March 2009

I Can See for Miles

With apologies to Pete Townsend....

To the East and North of our allotment site has been, for at least as long as Meggie can remember, abandoned farmland, gradually being taken over by hawthorn, birch and brambles, and always threatening to turn into a massive housing estate at the hands of a local developer.

It's been fantastic dog walking country, criss crossed as it is by the paths opened up by trail bikers, and you'll have heard in this blog of any number of circular "loop" walks that use it - the Levee loop, the concrete bridge, the high path, the short-levee. Meggie's a bit old now for the full levee loop, but we still enjoy a charge about down there and only weeks back I took myself off for a rabbit hunt through its thickets (see blog called "Only gone for 15 minutes")

It abounded in wild flowers at the right season - rosebay willow herb (fire weed to our US readers), thistles, bristly ox-tongue and blossom from the brambles and hawthorn (may), blackthorn (sloes) and morello cherries. It ran with rabbits and we could regularly see foxes, nightingales, pheasants, cuckoos and kestrels.

Now suddenly, with the credit crunch clipping the wings of the developer, we hear that it is to be returned to farmland, cleared, ploughed and planted to oilseed rape and wheat. So out there now, all across the "Abbey Fields" (as they are known) big machinery is at work - huge hydraulic tracked diggers, JCB's (back-hoes) with telescopic jibs and grabs, tractors with massive tillers etc, clearing the scrub, piling it into huge pyres and torching them. You can see the boiling brown smoke for miles.

You can see for miles, too ! It is surprising how the hawthorn and bramble rises up to hem you in shrinking your horizon to a few feet. Today, on the high ridge path we could see for miles across the feilds - even a dog with her eyes 8 inches from the deck has a clear view.

We don't know whether to be pleased that the threat of the Housing Estate has gone (for now) or sad for the foxes made homeless, the birds forced to move on, and the end to a goodly crop of blackberries. Farmland is OK, but ecologically and in terms of bio-diversity, a bright yellow field of OSR is almost sterile, and wheat sprayed 3 or 4 times a week might as well be scorched earth.

Ah well, the farmer guy is promising to keeop some paths open and allow we dogs continued access.

As for Megan, our walk today to see the fires and clearances is an hour and a half, which is just about at her limit. She is dawdling like a pro by the time we walk back down hill to the house. She's walked those fields since she was a pup - for nearly 13 years we've had that lovely wild place - almost a nature reserve - to walk in, just minutes from the front door.

Ah... waxing lyrical

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