I’ve just read an article in the CPRE’s spring edition of Countryside Voice by self-confessed city lover, Robert Elms, who can’t stand the ‘the dreary predictability of muddy little England’. Compared to ‘the buzz, thrill and noisy creative glory of a city’ to him the countryside is ‘a depressing rejection of all that in favour of safe, samey conformity’. And I find myself nodding in partial agreement. Too much of England has become over-sanitised, too safe, too uniform.
Often when Robert (husband) and I return to visit old walking haunts we are surprised to find how much they have changed. Gone are the haphazard pastures and meadows filled with a riot of dandelions and daisies. No more are there crumbling stone or earth banks, gaps stuffed with old bedsprings and handy corrugated iron. Gone is the decrepit rusty fencing tied up with fading fibrous pieces of bailer twine to the nearest gnarled stump of hedgerow bush. Gone too is the exhilarating feeling of a remote and wild place. In its place we find acre after acre of bottle-green nitrogen ryegrass, geometrically divided by straight, neatly trimmed hedges bounded by bright tight squeaky clean fencing. Smart tanalised styles, each with neat dog gate and sporting a brand new painted signpost. Barn conversions all following the same brown-window syndrome
I feel angry, upset and cheated. But, if I’m honest, I can remember thinking once that all that broken decay was a sign of shoddy farming! Okay, so our rush-infested fields and pastures are either a waterlogged, sink-sucking morass or an ankle-breaking, knee-twisting concrete with nothing inbetween, and they are exacting and unproductive, but we are blessed with a farm that has character. It is totally individual and exciting. So we resolve to leave that old dung-spreader where it was in the field corner, not to make any more hedgerows redundant through fencing them, to tolerate those thickets of brambles springing out here and there and to leave that muddy gateway where the house martins collect the mud for their nests.
Would Mr Elms, I wonder, find this countryside – wild, unkempt, unpredictable – a more interesting exchange for his culturally exciting, glorious buzzy urbanity? Or would he still feel all the countryside has to offer is various forms of soil?
to read the whole article see May edition of Devon Today