We needed to get off the farm…beautiful though it is sometimes all you can see is the next job. Winter takes its toll too. Nature has done the spring thing but my body certainly hasn’t. Robert wanted to take some photos of blackthorn hedges so we headed off to a part of the north Devon coast that has an old green lane. I remembered it well even though I hadn’t been there for about fifteen years as it was the last walk I had with my now frail mum.

Wow, it had changed! We kept stopping to check our OS map. Field after square field of bottle green nitrogen ryegrass, neat clipped hedges, smart tanalised styles with dog gates each one sporting a brand new signpost. Along the coastal cliffs high earth banks had been constructed reinforced with efficiently taught stock fencing. There were no more haphazard pastures full of dandelions and daisies or crumbling stone banks gaps stuffed with old bedsprings and handy corrugated iron. Gone was the old rusty fencing trailing off into space where the cliff edge had slumped and crumbled into the sea hundreds of feet below. Gone also was the exhilarating feeling of a remote and wild place. Needless to say the old green lane had also been manipulated and managed. I felt angry and upset and a bit cheated, though I can remember thinking all that was rather shoddy farming once!

After eating an enormous cream tea we returned home where those numerous chores had taken on a more balanced perspective. Okay, I thought, so rush-infested fields and pastures that are either waterlogged welly-sucking mud or ankle-breaking concrete with nothing in between are always going to be difficult to manage – but on the up side we are blessed with a farm that is heaving with loads of wildlife, flowers and trees. It is totally individual and exciting.

What do you think? I’d be really interested to know. Do you think we’re sanitising and smoothing over the individuality and variety of our countryside? Making it ultra safe and bland, in fact boring? Or do you think it’s made it more available and familiar, more accessible?

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