One day while coming home I stopped off on a road near my house. The wild flowers so struck me with their beauty that I stopped the car and took a few photographs.
It’s not often that the borders of the English fields are left looking like this: the hedgerows and wild flowers left alone to do what they do, grow wild and beautiful, providing shelter to the mini beasts and ultimately benefiting us. Soon after I took these photos in 2014 these hedgerows were drastically cut back again. I remember looking for the blackberries and they’d gone.
Cutting back the countryside hedgerows so they’re obliterated is also killing our flora and fauna. Some becoming extinct never to return. Those in power have known this for decades. And yet they do – despite saying otherwise – continue to carry on in this way as if it doesn’t matter.
“…an overwhelming 78 per cent of [British] people want farmers to get more support to carry out environmentally sustainable farming practices.”
– Flohre, A., Fischer, C., Aavik, T. et al. (2011) Agricultural intensification and biodiversity partitioning in European landscapes comparing plants, carabids, and birds. Ecological Applications. 21: 1772-1781.
After World War Two and for several years Britain was starving; my parents remembered ration coupons that were introduced not only during the war when they were children, but for some years after it too. Food wasn’t the only thing rationed: Clothing, soap, fuel, paper were as well. Rationing became even stricter after the war, lasting until 1954. For a while, food production within the country remained low, unable to be increased, and food imports were likewise low.
Under the post-war Labour government – prime minister Clement Attlee (July 1945 – October 1951) – a policy was introduced to encourage hedge removal for the sake of producing enough self sufficient food. But it backfired: This was the advent of new farm machinery – mechanised agriculture – and it was crude, eradicating too much of the hedgerows; and farmers became greedy, purposefully removing too much of the hedgerows for the financial rewards. (I suppose who could blame them after such a long time of upheaval and austerity). Today there are grants encouraging the preservation and planting of hedgerows.
I just need to note here that ‘mechanised agriculture’ was the answer at the time for producing adequate food for the growing populations. Food production thereby greatly increased.
I remember the hedgerows along my road (above/below photos) being greatly eradicated during the early 1990s. Then I didn’t realise just how important they are, but I missed them for their wild beauty.
“Some hedgerows are so important that no amount of planting could replace them. The government has brought in legislation to protect hedgerows of key importance (currently in England and Wales only).”
During the CoviD-19 times (October 2019 – 20??), originating from Wuhan, China, I’m noticing the hedgerows and wildflowers in my immediate area of Norfolk (England) flourishing. Growing strong and unhindered against the backdrop of the clearest blue skies (due to the sharp decline in air travel, another outcome of the virus). The local councils throughout Britain haven’t been cutting back the wildflowers and hedges bordering the roads in their usual extreme fashion. (Although, of course, sometimes it is necessary regarding road safety). That is one of the silver linings of this rampant insidious infection.
I’ve long thought of the positives that emerged from the Second World War despite the terrible loss of life, unfathomable cruelty and hardship. Including a step forward towards equality for women and black people.
The men were away, fighting in the war someone had to get the job done! Women proved their capability doing the jobs that the men used to do: By learning new skills, managing at self-sufficiency, and raising their children alone. No doubt this sparked confidence in themselves, later furthering the cause of feminism. African Americans were likewise proving their abilities when they were suddenly needed as soldiers – while racially segregated within their own military units – and experiencing for the most part, the same rights as the white person while overseas in Britain. These experiences propelled their own equality movement forward for decades to come. In contrast to how well black soldiers/workers in other jobs (both African American and Caribbean) were received by British civilians who welcomed these allies, unfortunately there remained racial segregation of Caribbean soldiers by Britain’s own military leaders.
Another WW2 silver lining: Inventions! Including computers: The Colossus was the first of many computers invented to speed up and crack the Enigma codes. The early computers filled whole rooms, they were enormous. To read about more WW2 inspired inventions click the link below, at the bottom of the post.
I believe there are always ‘silver-linings’ no matter how bad a situation gets. It’s the balance of things. Another positive that emerged from the virus was in many instances, kindness – people volunteering and helping one another.
This week John and I were watching TV catching the last 20 minutes of a programme about small businesses in the south-west (Cornwall and Devon in England). One person stood out from all the others to me, a farmer called Cyril Cole of Lower Ash Moor Farm in South Molton.
He was a farmer in his later years who delighted in growing and making hay from his wild flower meadows. He liked that his change in farming practices no longer harmed the natural environment – and in addition, since he was one of a few doing this, was making good money from it! We watched him feed and care for a baby Barn Owl to adulthood to give the owl a chance at survival when released again into the wild. This was something he did whenever he came upon an orphaned baby owl. When the programme ended I had to look him up on the internet. I felt sad for his wife Kathleen and family because he’d recently passed away earlier this year. Apparently Kathleen intends to carry on Cyril’s pioneering work on the farm by employing contractors. According to the same article where I learnt about the proposed memorial walk in Cyril’s name, the couple helped others create their own meadows too – making meadow hay wasn’t just a business to them. It’s good hearing about kindhearted people, those who try to make our world a better place.
“I’ve had lots of lovely letters and cards from people who appreciated what he did for them. He’d try to help everybody, not just with the flowers.”
– Kathleen, Cyril’s wife
You can read more about Cyril by clicking the link below.
Thanks for dropping by, I hope you enjoyed this country hedgerow post. The more I researched it the more I wrote!
There is a part 2 on hedgerows coming soon – about the current ones that are flourishing near me.
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Copyright Faith McCord 2020
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.