“While Stewardship may not be anything like semi-natural habitats with their associated wildlife accumulated over several centuries, it does have an important part to play in reducing the haemorrhaging of wildlife from our farmed countryside” AW.
This is the lament of my pal Adrian, Clerk/Ranger to the Sudbury Common Lands Charity. Not quite as John Clare towards the ‘Inclosures’ but a modern view of the landscape today. He has my sentiments as we observe the seriously diminishing natural countryside.
Stewardship Down of the Farm:
Is there a need for field-edge to field-edge wheat?
Bordered, if lucky, by a hedge flailed so neat.
Every inch of land cultivated to grow
Profit for the farmer, but nothing to show,
No homes or refuges to ease wildlife’s plight
No blossom or fruit, or nesting site,
Nooks or nectar for the bird and the bee.
Often just crops as far as the eye can see.
Everything swept away through years of greed,
To cultivate every corner, eradicate every weed.
And that great goal of tidiness, which is a sin,
Makes our countryside look as neat as a pin.
It need not be like that with a little thought,
Care and attention to wildlife’s support.
And if we do that, what might we expect
If we take some trouble, show a little respect?
Well, let’s take a look, a gentle stroll should do,
Around the field margins, a sort of review
To make the heart sing, at the sight of so much.
There is the wildlife that we had kicked into touch.
Wing quivering, song-spilling skylark skies,
The air rejoicing, musically alive.
Watching, big-eyed, haunch-powered hares
Hunkered down, listening black-brown ears.
Peacocks, settled to catch the morning sun,
Winged palettes of colour, nothing dull or dun,
And cowslip fragrance on a gentle breeze,
A delight to the nose, a waft to tease.
Senses alive to sights and sounds around,
Colour, movement, and diversity abound.
A stoat on his hind legs, peering about,
Hoping for rabbits that he can catch out
Over tall grasses before they get away,
But the vole in her nest probably won’t stray.
Field-margin moon daisies to gladden the eye,
Grey-garbed Mother Shipton feeding, not shy,
And Burnet Companion for this dazzled moth,
Along with blue butterflies on a trefoil cloth.
Field edge brambles make a nursery for a hedge,
And home for the whitethroat singing ahead.
He flew thousands of miles to find a place to stay,
And spend the summer in the family way.
Through warm sunshine, bees, and insects galore
Buzz in flowery plantings, they need look no more.
And birds tease out seeds, clinging and overhung,
In fields and corners with thistle and oxtongue.
Linnet and goldfinch, such bright colours to see,
They come in flocks where food is a guarantee.
No wasting of energy while hunting around
Fields that are deserts with no food to be found.
They say we like wildlife, that it is good for the soul,
Why then do we make our countryside so unwhole?
Where our hearts find no comfort, our eyes no sights,
And our ears silent of sounds, and devoid of delights.
Is this how we really want to live our lives now?
Without a thought for our wildlife or how
We need it around us to enrich our lives,
To relax, refresh, destress, because it revives.
Give me the farm with just a little to show,
For wildlife’s needs for then I will know
That my heart will sing, and my body rejoice,
To hear the high trilling of the skylark’s voice.
I am not entirely in favour of the movement to drastically ‘rewild’ the countryside. And, I am equally concerned that England already imports far too much agricultural produce from abroad.
See also – Conservation – ‘Historic Water Meadows’