Posts Tagged ‘Countryside’

Pollinators and wildflowers: a timely reminder from Sarah Raven

For some time now there has been increasing concern about the plight of the Bumblebee but this extends further to include pollinators in general, wildflowers and the insects that rely on these flowers.  Sarah Raven’s BBC2 programme ‘Bees, Butterflies and Blooms,’ the first episode of which aired last night, is a timely and important reminder of the swathes of wildflower habitats that have been lost in this country during the course of the last century and the detrimental impact that this has had on pollinators and other insects, let alone the survival of wildflower species and the landscape as a whole.

As with so many environmental catastrophes created by mankind, it is only when we are at a state of crisis that we begin to try and repair the damage.  It can only be hoped that campaigns such as Sarah Raven’s and others start to really get into the public consciousness and cause a change in the general attitude towards how we manage our environments, both urban and rural.

It is shocking to think that it is in rural areas where the problem is greatest; monoculture farming, the removal of hedgerows, and the use of pesticides is nothing but destructive and it is time that such practices were addressed more forcefully than they currently are.  We can no longer plead ignorance about their impact.

Of course there needs to be some sort of economic benefit for farmers, otherwise they just won’t get on with planting wildflower strips on the margins of their fields to increase biodiversity (this is a reality that unfortunately can’t be escaped; money seems always to trump any environmental concern); education on the subject, at all levels, doubtless needs to be improved also.

The other despairing thing about the programme was the palpable reluctance of many of the folk of Creaton, Northamptonshire to give over even a small part of the vast village green to wildflowers (should a Parish Council really be able to delay or even completely reject a plan of this kind?).  It seems that unless a TV camera is on-hand such things are easily swept under the carpet.  The old photograph of the green full and alive was far more appealing to my mind than the perfectly clipped state the village green currently exists in.  Hopefully the villagers will now press forward and do more and be a beacon to others to do the same.

So there we have it.  Simple really: learn, campaign and practice what you preach and maybe attitudes and practices will change.  The RHS has developed the ‘Perfect for Pollinators’ label after being approached by Sarah Raven to support her campaign.  A full list of these plants is available as a PDF.

Other sites to look at:

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

National Hedgelaying Society


Article on Biodiversity and Agriculture from Global Food Security


Are the English Lazy Litter Louts?

My personal experience forces me to draw the conclusion that at least a portion of us are. Why? Taking a walk about the country lanes around where I live, I will always find a trail of litter that has been tossed from car windows and left to rot (assuming it is a material that will) on the woodland verges; I have noticed that unless you walk the lanes you don’t always notice the litter, that if you go buy in a car you only ever see a small portion of the amount of litter that is really there.

And what kind of litter do I come across? It is usually related to convenience food so all the big brand names are there: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, MacDonalds, KFC, Walkers (crisps), Cadbury, Nestle, Special Brew, Carling, Fosters, sandwhich wrappers from places like Boots and a whole host of other big brand goods. Plastic bags from all the major supermarkets are usually plentiful too. It does make me wonder whether these companies should be made to pay an additional waste tax, the proceeds of which are spent solely on litter collection? Unfortunately, I don’t see that ever becoming a reality. Of course, these companies can argue that the individual is responsible, and with this I completely agree and think that dropping litter should be dealt with much more forecfuly and the option of fining people always used until the population get into a mindset of not dropping litter. But I still think there must be greater corporate responsibility and a really visible and constant lead from corporate bodies in tackling the problem.

I live on the East Sussex/Kent border, close to Tunbridge Wells, so perhaps it is inevitable that with a large urban population close at hand that litter dropping and fly-tipping is going to be a problem (I hear the cry go up that I am anti-urban; this is not the case, but I often find that our urban areas particularly suffer from dropped litter and am therefore led to the conclusion that some of the urban English population don’t give a second thought to throwing litter from their car windows as they wizz around the countryside)

What really annoys and frustrates me about this is that it would be just as easy for a person to hold on to their rubbish and to place it in a bin on reaching their destination, rather than throwing it out of the window. So why don’t people do this? What drives them to lob their waste from the window? Do human beings suffer from a psychological disfunction that leads them to defile the landscape in which they live? On that note, is this just an English or British problem or is it global? I know that I occasionally have readers from Italy, the USA, South Africa and elsewhere so I would be interested to hear whether your rural landscapes are treated by some as a large waster/litter/trash/rubbish dumps? If so, then is humanity destined to realise the fiction of the Wall-E landscape?

It would also be interesting to hear from those of you who live in more rural areas around the UK as to whether you experience the same problem? Does proximity to a large urban area equate to greater littler or is it just as bad in places where there is no substantial urban settlement nearby? If the latter is the case then we would have to conclude that portions of the rural population are also guilty of the indiscriminate dropping of litter and should be targeted just as strongly by the anti-litter campaign, corporate bodies, and the law.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) are running a campaign to highlight the problem of litter and fly-tipping in the countryside. Bill Bryson, the chairman of the CPRE, has given the campaign a much needed boost in the media but I wonder if it is enough and whether people will really listen? Given that the campaign started back in 2007 (read an article here) and that the problem, certainly in my area is no better, I fear not.


I always come away from Sissinghurst with a deep sense of satisfaction and joy; both the garden and the surrounding landscape exude a magical quality, but they are also tangible links to the past and markers of how we envisage the future for both our old houses and estates and the countryside. 

The unseasonably warm weather of the past few weeks has encouraged much into life that might otherwise still be considering rousing from its winter sleep.  The Lime Walk, Hot harden, Woodland, and Orchard were all teeming with colour and vitality. 

My wife and I have been visiting Sissinghurst now for a number of years, usually two or three times from Spring to Autumn, and we never tire of it.  There is so much to capture the imagination whether it be on a grand scale when considering the overall design of the various parts of the garden, or in the detail of each flower and plant.

Below are just a few pictures of the many that we took.  If you want to see some more then pop over to my wife’s blog to see the pictures she has posted.

A magical view through the woodland

Looking across to the orchard

Plenty of colour in the Hot Garden

Magnolia against blossom


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