Please stick with me, this post is a little longer than usual. (May I suggest a nice cup of tea as you read?)
I strongly recommend the new Channel 4 TV features within the evening news program, Green and Pleasant Land. There have been a number of films to date which are examining and looking at the changing English countryside every day and they are a good watch for anyone with an interest in this topic.
The series is exploring the threats to the English countryside caused in the longer term by climate change and in the shorter term by seasonal change caused by extreme weather events.
The populations of birds, butterflies and trees have greatly reduced.
As with all things, the issues are deep and complex. With different numbers of experts and people experienced in these areas often having a difference of opinion.
The film on trees explores the rise in the last decade in particular of the numbers of diseases and pests which have attacked British trees. In the 1970’s it was the Dutch Elm disease which killed many Elm, about 25 million I think but in the last 10 years especially the number of different diseases and pests have dramatically increased.
A lot of good work is being done currently to find strains of saplings which are resistant to the Ash dieback which has affected trees this year. Other projects are also underway.
The film on birds with Bill Bailey is wonderful. It struck a cord with me. Bill has always loved birds since a child. When he talks about birds his face lights up and he looks really happy. He remembers his father giving him an Observer book of birds. I understand. I have similar memories of the Observer books my own father had, (I still have them all) and being taught by him to learn the names of the wild flowers on our farm and in the hedgerows. Some I have forgotten I’m sure, but this joy has stayed with me into adult life. And I try to teach my children now. I would never profess to be any expert, but I have gained a love and appreciation of all things natural.
Of course the countryside will ever evolve and ever change. Nothing stays the same. But some of the recent changes are concerning. I can recall the rural England of my childhood, growing up on the farm and I do recall some things which have changed. There are definitely less butterflies than in my childhood. This next one may be revolting to some but as a girl you could not walk across a field of cows with cowpats without swallowing one of the strange red flies which fed on the pats! There were just so many of them and walking across the field disturbed them so that they flew up in the air. I never see these flies now.
As a girl I learnt when certain things would flower with some accuracy, the bluebells for example or when the apples would appear. I could impress some of my city friends with such knowledge! Now it is near impossible to predict such things with any accuracy for there are many seasonal changes and variations. And I no longer know with certainty. No-one does.
I believe things are never all bad. And that by working in collaboration, businesses, farmers, people can help support the countryside and have a positive impact upon it. It just takes some big thinking and then some very detailed and focused planning.
If you would like to see the films yourself you can visit here
Please do post your comments. I would love to see them.