I read the news today that Andrea Leadsom (Secretary for
Ms Leadsom's view is that the three crop rule isn't needed in the UK because our patchwork of fields makes mono-culture less mono. But intensive farming on any scale relies heavily on chemical sprays and in smaller fields that means more field margins, whether they be hedges or woodlands will be effected by spray-back, something Europe has been working hard to minimise. Field margins are valuable wildlife resources and are currently offered a degree of protection by buffer zones, set-aside strips paid for by EU stewardship schemes, but presumably these will soon be on the way out too as they take up space that could be used for growing crops.
It's looking like wildlife will be, as feared, collateral damage of our choice to remove the protective wing of Europe from our land. But then wildlife is all too often seen as an unfortunate by-product of the natural world, an inconvenience that stands between us and a never-ending supply of the kind of crops we want and a booming economy. There is much truth in the old adage that people only save what they love or value. I don't know how we re-engage people to the extent that they care enough to make a noise whenever one of our politicians makes a decision that will directly negatively impact our wild cousins.
I am far more upset about this than I was about Trump, and Lord knows that was bad enough. I don't know how DEFRA can continue to call itself DEFRA without blushing. It would be more honest to call it DF, because concern for the non-farmed part of the Environment doesn't seem to come into it's decision making processes at all.
In the face of this depressing but predictable start-of-the-slippery-slope into the loss of yet more wild things and wild places, and as a defiant gesture to Ms Leadsom and her ilk, we have planted two hedges at home. One is at the top of the garden and one at the bottom. Neither are huge; one extends an existing hedge and will provide a wildlife corridor down the length of the garden up to the ponds, and the other (about 5m long) is brand new and will form a protective edge for the new perennial wildlife garden. Both contain a mix of native species: Hazel, Field Maple, Hawthorn, Privet, Guelder Rose and Spindle, chosen for their benefit to wildlife.
They've been in a day and already the Song Thrush has been poking about at the base of the newly planted saplings, turning earth over carefully looking for worms, annoying the Blackbirds who are very suspicious indeed of their speckledy cousin; the Robins have flown over to sit on the wall and watch proceedings (I am assuming one of them is the Robin who came into our bedroom yesterday and left two calling cards, before making his way back out into the garden unaided), and the wren flew off shouting at me loudly from beneath the baby hedge this morning. Threaded through the bottom of the hedge we have planted copious quantities of spring bulbs so the bees and butterflies, moths, hoverflies and beetles will be happy too.
Spring is heading our way. The Spring that the wild things listen to, not the calendar Spring that humans cleave to. The Long Tailed Tits have reappeared, as have the Starlings and the Siskins. Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are drilling in the woods and the Stock Doves have been making their engine-revving calls from trees by the lake. The Robins are securing territories, throwing back their chests to show off their impressive redness; the Ravens are checking out nest sites; Honey Bees are on the wing and I found a Peacock butterfly sleeping on the wall of the house last week. Great Tits are calling for mates and Mistle Thrushes are singing deep in the woods. The dominant Fox pair have been verbally beating the bounds at midnight, making certain everyone knows this is their patch by taking turns to shout and call and the Tawnys, who mate earliest of all the owls, have been singing to one another through the frost and the stars.
I appreciate that juggling wildlife needs with farming is not a simple feat, (and also know that a great many farmers take their wildlife responsibilities seriously and do stirling work for wildlife- friends of ours among them) but do the politicians given responsibility for a department that's meant to keep an eye out for wildlife really have to be so firmly in one camp that they ignore the needs of the other completely?
I'm not sure they've understood the simplicity of the message that says if our wildlife goes we won't be far behind it. We are far more reliant on the complex web of subtle connections that links a bee with an ivy flower, and an ivy flower with a hedge, and a hedge with a woodland, and a woodland with a dormouse, and a dormouse with a weasel, and a weasel with a beetle, and a beetle with a bat, and a bat with a flower and that flower with our food than any of us yet fully understand.
A couple of summers ago while doing some voluntary work for Butterfly Conservation a man asked a colleague why should I care about butterflies? What's a butterfly ever done for me? The answer that they provided him with the food he ate, the air he breathed, the water he drank, the soil he trod, the temperature regulation he relied on to survive didn't change his opinion, because the ways and means that these things work by are so subtle most of us never think about them. We take the support systems that make our lives on this planet possible completely for granted and never think that one day they might fail.
Allowing farms to turn thousands of acres over to producing one kind of crop alone is a step on that path towards ecosystem failure. You only have to walk through these mono-culture deserts in summer to feel the complete emptiness of the landscape- it is utterly devoid of any life but the crop that is growing there. Venture into a wildflower meadow, or a hay meadow, or a farm that rotates its crops and puts in wildlife strips and manages its hedges and coppices its woodlands sympathetically and you'll have trouble counting all the species you see and hear.
I'm on my soap box and I'm not apologising. I'm more fed up than I can say that with all the wealth of evidence pointing in one direction, the so-called educated people elected to look after our land are blindly going in the other direction.