Totally Drained?

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A snipe from the archives

It has been interesting to follow the progress of a local farmer as he wages war on nature and attempts to iron his crumpled, idyllic little farm into a single massive silage field. Each to his own of course, but in pursuit of his subsidies, he has managed to leave no bramble or whin bush intact over the past five years. It’s not easy to stand by and witness this work, but I was particularly disappointed when he turned his sights on a small flooded area of grassland on the roadside at the bottom of the glen. This was one of the last strongholds for breeding lapwing in the parish, and as a small child I remember seeing the sloppy grass filled with crowds of shelducklings, the sum of several broods all left under the watchful eye of a volunteer “nanny”.

The wet ground amounts to perhaps half an acre, although distributed in an irregular streak between dryer hummocks. The first attempts to drain this patch saw off the lapwings once and for all, and the shelduck never returned. But the grass was still wet, so the ante was upped. Great trenches were dug in the ground, and black pipes were laid into the mud like tubes of pasta. The results seemed to indicate success, but five years later the ground is wet again. Rushes grow through like stubble, and it’ll soon be time for the farmer’s next move. Unfortunately, we’ll all be asked to finance his next campaign, but perhaps that’s a different blog article.

Either way, I was gratified this morning to find that nature has been quietly striking back against the march of progress. A buzzard was fumbling in the roadside verge beside the wet ground as I approached in the car this morning. Intrigued as to the object of this tussle, I slowed down for a closer look. With a sigh of irritation, the buzzard took off and landed on a nearby telegraph pole, and I got out to see what it had been doing. There was nothing in the verge, but as I slammed the car door, five snipe rose up in a whisp from the stubbly rushes. As they circled around in the sunshine, I thanked them for not giving up on this small piece of wet ground.

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