Sunday, 25 April 2010

faces of the countryside

I cycled this morning for the first time in a fortnight because I've been digging the allotment the last couple of weekends.

The countryside was looking really fresh after the rain last night, which was apparently heavy for about half an hour, although I slept through it.

The oilseed rape is coming into flower between the Great Brook and Aston, the neighbouring village. It's an odd but quite startling and dramatic sight. The oily, itchy pollen hasn't begun to fill the air yet.

Another thing that's got going in a big way since I was last out on the bike is fly-tipping. There were lorry tyres in the Great Brook and the pile of rubble and rubbish above in a gateway between Aston and Yelford. Whenever money is tight fly-tipping increases.

Between Yelford and Lew I came across several clumps of cowslips and one of cowslips and bluebells (above).

It's really nice to see cowslips, although I'm not sure whether these ones are wild or sown. The daffodils further along the lane were definitely garden ones. I remember when I was a child lying down in the watermeadow at Tynings Farm*, our off-lying holding, which was a sea of cowslips. In the years that followed cowslips and other wild flowers disappeared as spraying crops became widespread.

When I got home and had breakfast there was a disturbing article in the Sunday Times about a new book called Silent Summer, which is named after Rachel Carson's seminal work on the effects of agricultural sprays that came out in 1962. The new book has a foreword by Sir David Attenborough and contributions from 40 British ecologists. The Sunday Times sums up Silent Summer's message as follows:

'The book describes the decline of 75% of butterfly species, the near disappearance of many moths and similar reverses for bees, flies and snails.

'Attenborough warns that such organisms make up the foundations of Britain's ecosystems. "We tend to focus on the bigger animals and ignore the smaller ones--but small creatures like these are the basis of our entire ecosystems and they are disappearing faster than ever. That loss is transforming our wildlife and countryside," he said.'

The causes of the decline of these creatures include pesticides, population growth and intensive agriculture.

A chilling article.

For more info about the book, see

*My father eventually sold Tynings Farm to the property developer Gerald Ronson. It became his family home for a time.

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