Posts Tagged ‘dog fouling’

pooI have a special relationship with the countryside, some might say eccentric, even a little Victorian. I see in it reflections of what the old Romantics would have called the sublime. I am a countryman, I suppose. I was brought up in it, still live in a rural village, and have resisted all my life the siren call and the bright lights and the fast food outlets of the ever encroaching environs of  Urbania. Unlike the countryside, Urbania to my eyes is the same wherever you find it, and it is always growing, always flowing, bustling, hustling, and always blowing out its litter into other people’s hedgerows. And to me, for all of its bright lights, Urbania is void of colour; it is a uniform, uninteresting grey.  You don’t need to go anywhere to find it; stand still for long enough, and it will come to you.

The sublime cannot be found everywhere in the countryside; it is a fickle thing, but for sure it is least likely to found where our constructions, or even our footprints encroach too greedily upon it. This is not to say we are always spoiling nature – we can find ways of living in harmony with it, but more often we don’t try, and the closer the borders of Urbania draw near, the less likely we are to care about such cerebral niceties as abiding in nature, and the quest for the sublime.

Rural communities understand how the moods, and even the shape of the land can inform and uplift the soul. The smaller the community, and the further away from Urbania, the more keenly will the rhythms and the currents of nature be felt. Urbanians though, take a different view. They see nature more as an “amenity”, or a convenient open space, allowing them to do those anti-social activities the towns and cities deny them, even if this is so basic a thing as providing somewhere for their dogs to run and dump (no I really do mean dump), or a convenient slope up which they can take their bicycles and churn the paths to slime on the downward run.

By contrast, the countryman will walk a path and leave no trace of his passing, not a bent twig nor torn piece of moss, nor are you likely to hear him passing. But Urbanians will yelp and squeal and eff and blind their way, and they will spill litter from their pockets as they go, like a trail of breadcrumbs as if they fear getting lost; they will set fire to stolen cars in the back lanes, and they will leave calling cards in the form of little bags of poo.

Yes poo!

rivington pike

Rivington Pike

I have written of the despoliation of Rivington before. Rivington is one of Lancashire’s most celebrated and most visited beauty spots. But visiting it again myself after the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, I find matters reaching a crisis point, though I say this every year. The first thing my eyes alighted upon after parking my car and fastening on my boots, was a little bag of poo hanging cheekily from a tree. Beneath, and scattered around it were beercans and plastic bottles. As I moved off, I spied another bag of poo in the grass, another hung from a nail on the fence. More beercans were revealed at every turn, also polythene bags, food wrappers, and of course more little bags of poo.

For those of you not acquainted with this peculiar custom, the poo in question comes from dogs. It is painstakingly collected by their owners, and then hung up for all to see. The poo transcends your normal detritus, which seems scattered more in a careless way indicative of the Urbanian’s normal insensitivity for nature. The poo however is a definite statement, obviously, being all the more carefully arrayed so that it can only be taken as a banner, or a bowel churning war-cry:

“I have been,” it says. “And I shall come again.”

There it hangs, or lies, preserved in its entirety, and for eternity, more bags of poo accumulating week on week of course, until one cannot progress literally more than a few paces without finding yet another one. I have no wish to offend doggie people, am very fond of dogs, and know many responsible owners, but these bags of poo are offensive to a countryman. Human beings have a natural aversion to faecal matter, at least that issuing from the bowels of carnivores, including ourselves, and for the basic reason it is alive with pathogens, and can do us harm.

It must be said this is something of a recent phenomenon. In the long ago, dogs would dump in the open while owners looked blithely on. And there the said pile would steam and fester until the rains washed it away. This is now an offence, punishable by a hefty fine so dog owners must pick up their turds and take them home. It is not a task I would enjoy, speaking personally as a non dog owner, but owners do seem most diligent in this nowadays, placing the faecal matter ever so carefully in a bag, and I’m sure many do then take it home. However, obviously, as any walk around Rivington or indeed anywhere else in the countryside these days will tell you, many do not.

rivington village green

Rivington Village Green

I am at a loss to understand this quirk of human nature. Having done the really hard part, I mean handling it and bagging it, why then hang it up for all to see? Really, it makes no sense! Urbanians please explain! Is this a territorial thing? Are you really at war with us country folk? Cease, or we shall drive our herbivorous cows and sheep into your cities, and create perpetual gridlock!

A walk around Rivington, especially after the Easter Bank Holiday makes me wonder if others believe that care of the countryside is always someone else’s responsibility, that if we leave our beercans, our plastic paraphernalia, discarded underpants, brassieres, prophylactics, fast food cartons, shoes, nappies, and little bags of poo strewn about, someone else will tidy it all away. They won’t. Care of the countryside is everyone’s responsibility, so please take your litter, and your poo home.

Oh, it’s easy to rant, and I shall resist the urge, because there’s an inevitability about it. Such detritus is a natural tide, a line of flotsam that projects beyond the boundaries of Urbania, a high water mark to drown all in its path. To avoid it one must travel further afield than Rivington now. I accept it. I mourn it. It is lost to the greyness.

“What is greyness, please?” asks the passing Urbanian, dog bag at the ready.

It is a lack of colour, a lack of depth, mate. It is the subliminal life drained from nature, as it abuts the incoming tide, its roots shrinking as if at the advance of a glyphosphate spillage. It is in short that bag of dog poo you are for some mysterious reason hanging from a tree.

In response a committee is formed, and we put up a notice claiming the land as “Amenity”, as if its authoritative fonts alone will protect it. Then we put up prohibitive notices, which are themselves as ugly as the things they prohibit. Meanwhile we leave the litter to rot because you have to pay someone in man-hours to pick that up, and why bother when several tonnes more will be deposited as soon as the man goes home.

You can still find places unmarked by bags of poo, but they tend to be where the land is large and scary and the wind blows hard all winter. Only there my friend do Urbanians, and their doggies, fear to tread. I should add here in conclusion I do not mean to imply all town or city dwellers are Urbanians. You don’t have to live in the sticks be a countryman at heart. But remember to be a countryman you must leave no trace of your passing, and that includes taking your dog poo home.

Read Full Post »

marshsideFriday 22nd November 2013

Cool this morning, about 2 degrees, light frost. Dropped T off at the bus stop for college, then drove to the Marshside nature reserve and walked out along the old dumper truck trail to the estuary – at least as far as the mud would allow. The skies were a little hazy first thing, streaked with brown and blue grey, but clearing now to a deep blue, a low sun rising behind me and casting long shadows as I look out over the route I’ve just walked. There are a few other cars about, mostly people taking their dogs for a dump, one bearded twitcher standing alone in the reeds, heron-like, with an impressive telescope on a tripod. Across the estuary Blackpool is crystal clear, also Black Coombe, and I can just make out the Lakes beyond, through binoculars, the fells having a light dusting of snow this morning.

I’m probably going to sit here until about 10:00, then go in search of coffee and a new jumper – I noticed yesterday my old lambswool is coming in holes, a bit like me.  I also seem to be scratching about for socks and underpants – so may restock at Matalan.

I’m also trying to think.

I did eventually download that book “Brain Wars” by Beauregard. Hate the title though. Consumed it on my Kindle in one long sitting yesterday. There was nothing new in it for me – a repeat of studies I’m familiar with from other sources – not that this detracts from the importance of the work. Worth the read, but I think I preferred his “Spiritual Brain”. That the mind is separate from the brain seems now all but proven, at least to my satisfaction – only die-hard materialists continuing to deny the evidence that’s been mounting since Myers and the founding of the SPR in 1882. The argument that the mind is reduced by the brain for the purpose of enabling a physical existence in form is also convincing, and further arguments that the mind is freed upon death, back into a greater, non-physical awareness are also compellingly well supported now by an accumulation of evidence from veridical NDE’s. As Jung said, back in ’61, we have to reckon with the possibility,…

Where this leads us I don’t know, what the purpose of the greater mind’s hamstrung foray into physical form might be, again, I don’t know and am probably incapable of imagining. I did get it once, I think, grasped it intuitively, wordlessly, but that was on the other side of an ME, a long time ago. And I’ve slept a lot since then.

The windscreen is misting now, and I’m beginning to wonder what I’m doing here. It’s like this muddy trail in front of me, heading out to the sea. I’ve been passing it for years, decades even, seeing people wandering down it and wondering to myself what was so special at the end of it that might draw them on. Well, I’ve been down it now and it’s just a twenty minute tramp to a muddy foreshore, a couple of stumps and a seemingly infinite plane of yet more mud beyond – nothing that seems very special, in other words,  and always another frontier stretching before you.

The skies are alive with birds this morning, all manner of waders and the plaintive call of curlews and oyster catchers. Great squadrons of geese are moving up the estuary.

Nature is so wonderfully diverse and complex; we look at it and wonder at the purpose of it. But it has no purpose, no meaning, other than what we grant it. The meaning is perhaps what we aspire to, or something we grant it without even knowing we’re doing it. It’s an idea dimly grasped through the fog of an inadequate intellect, and perhaps the full awareness of that purpose will dawn only when there’s been a global shift in consciousness, maybe centuries from now, something that restores us to the perspective of our  immortal selves, temporarily camped out and shivering down here in the mud.

And then what?

But having advanced so far along the trail, I find myself withdrawing from such thoughts now, withdrawing from the mysterious frontier. Life is where it’s at, down here in the mud. Life is where it’s happening, it’s where consciousness lights up if only briefly in form, so with my life more than half over should I not be waking up to the fact of it by now and living it a little more? Should I not be more focussed on simply being instead of sitting here at 9:00 am on a Friday morning with my head up my own ass, ruminating on matters that greater minds than mine have foundered upon?

Okay, time to move on. I need coffee, and underpants and socks.

Read Full Post »

rye1Everything changes – it’s perhaps the most fundamental law of the cosmos. In human terms its workings are most easily observable in our ever changing environment and anyone of a philosophical bent can understand that things must change, that in a sense this is the only way time can make its presence known, but what is less clear to me is why change, and in particular human driven change, must always manifest itself in the transformation of potent beauty into soulless crap.

I visited my mother today. She’s recently turned eighty and continues to live in the same little semi she moved into when she married in 1959. Growing up there, I remember all the gardens in the street being well kept and my mother, struggling now with arthritis, still battles gamely with the little patch of earth she calls her own. Our neighbour’s garden too was a thing of great beauty – neatly clipped privet hedges, green velvet lawns and a line of the most magnificent cherry trees. Alas no more. The old guy passed on some years ago and, after going to seed for a bit, the house was bought by a property developer who, with an eye for the market, set about doubling its size. The privet hedges were replaced by brick walls and the grass and the cherry trees have long since been replaced by concrete. A four by four pick up truck was sitting there this weekend with all the grace of a carbuncle. There are security lights and cameras, but not a blade of grass, not a bush, not a border, not a bit of colour – summer or winter – just bland brick. It ticks all the right boxes on the estate agent’s spread-sheet and, though it’s ugly as sin, it’s probably worth a lot of money. In a similar way the gardens up and down the street are winking out one by one, to be replaced by concrete or limestone chippings for people to park their unsubtle status symbols on.

Whenever I visit my mother I  take the opportunity also to visit the valley of the river Rye, where, as a child, I did all of my exploring. The Rye is not it’s real name, and you must forgive me for that, because this is a sensitive environment, on the delicate urban fringe and already under threat. You walk out of the village and descend a stony little track, past the grand old house that used to be admired by all – 1920’s style, white rendered, big French doors, letting out onto terraced gardens. There used to be a dove-cote fixed up under its eaves, a beautiful triangular thing with the doves flying in and out cooing and adding a civilised grace to the scene. When the old gentle-folks who lived there passed on some years ago it was bought by a property developer who virtually demolished the old place and had constructed in its place a dull monstrosity of ubiquitous bland brick, surrounded by tall railings, security lights, and cameras. There’s plenty of money there, obviously, but to my mind he seems to have constructed for himself a kind of prison. It is now a property that shouts of ego and success – shouts also that we passer’s by should keep the hell out, or else. As I pass by I wonder what he thinks he’s got that any right minded person would envy?

And then you’re in the valley of the Rye. This really is a special place, and rare, being one of the largest tracts of unspoiled natural woodland left in Lancashire, but, like anywhere else in this overcrowded island of ours, its being slowly nibbled away by time and progress and the inexorable urge of a certain class of mankind who seeks always to “improve” upon his environment by digging it up and building houses on it. In the 1970’s the steeply wooded vale of the Rye was a very quiet place to be, surrounded by rolling farmland. I learned to hunt in it. You could get lost in it, not see a soul all day. But now the urban sprawl encroaches, the meadows succumbing one by one to development, the flags of the house sellers fluttering like the banners of an invading army.

One could never hope to hunt there now. You have only to sit still for a moment, trying perhaps to tune in to the quiet of the woods, for the energy to be disrupted by the passage of a dog-walker. Little bags of dog-poo fester in the places where I might once have lain in wait for hours with the gun, hopeful of a rabbit or a wood pigeon. Really, of all insults to the dignity of the land, these little bags of dog-poo, mystify me. To my mind the dog owner has already undergone the most cringe-making ordeal of picking up his pet pooch’s crap and bagging it, so why not follow through and take it home? Why toss it aside, so that the fetid product of his pet’s toilet can be preserved for years? Is it some kind of statement? A marking of territory? Really, I do not understand! And besides the poo, of course there are beer-cans everywhere, scattered by the same feral brats who see no wrong in breaking off the boughs of the oaks and sycamores and the beech trees, for no other reason than they can, and who’s going to stop them anyway and what does it matter because life is shit and then you die innit? – or some other nihilistic nonsense that our ever more educated yet ever more disconnected youngsters seem to insist upon as being the only valid reality.

rye2I’ve been watching a meadow here, overlooking the valley of the Rye, for the past ten years, knowing that it would fall one day. And this weekend I found that it had. It’s at the far end of my circuit, and was purchased some time ago, I suspect, by a sophisticated breed of developers: speculators who would snap up relatively worthless agricultural land and gamble on their ability to push though planning permission for houses. Indeed for ten long years I’ve feared houses, but instead, today, I found the meadow had been replaced by a peculiar kind of parkland – the fallow land excavated back to bare earth, the stoney track replaced with quaint little gravel walkways. Trees had been planted, benches had been spread about, and there were litter bins. Heaven preserve us – the mother of all disasters! Litter bins!

It’s hard to explain to anyone who had not walked through that meadow, before this train wreck of a transformation was wrought, what that meadow felt like all the years of my life. There was something uplifting about it – the light, the run of the path by the old thorn hedgerow. It was simple, effortless, like a case study in Zen – if there can ever be such a thing. But now its gone and it looks like – I don’t know – like all these attempts at planned prettification do, where no prettification is needed: like a garden of remembrance. The benches will bring the carrier-bag toting gawpers, who will leave their carrier bags behind, they will spray graffiti, and leave little bags of dog-poo on the paths. The litter bins will overflow and the sloppy leavings of these urbanised muppets will blow down into the Rye like a toxic waste, further dissipating what magical energy there remains.

When I was a teenager, like all teen-aged lads, I found myself desperately and hopelessly in love with a very beautiful girl. I didn’t stand a chance with her, and I knew it. At such times a simple circuit of the Rye was of great comfort to me, and I remember walking up towards this meadow from the shadow of the wood. It was a humid summer’s evening, a hint of thunder in the air. The girl in question would be in town that night, and I was wondering about putting myself within her careless sphere, so I could gaze puppy eyed at her and wait for her to make the first move, which of course she never would because she didn’t even know my name.

Coming up to the meadow, I was looking at the outline of a grand old beech tree. It had stood there for centuries, its shape tilted back against the prevailing wind. The air was still and the sky beyond was turning pink. It was a perfect moment, a moment burned deep into memory. I decided not to go into town. I didn’t need her. I was okay – the earth had restored my sense of self worth, sobered me, granted me the gift of a higher perspective. The houses were a long way off in those days, a good ten or fifteen minute’s walk. Now they’re within spitting distance and walking up to that same meadow now all you see is that line of park benches, and I feel like someone’s fouled my memory, hurled bags of dog-poo at it.

I cannot bring back that evening, nor the sense of transcendence, but so long as the land had remained in possession of its spirit, its energy, its ghosts, there was nothing to prevent it from rendering similar service again some day. I may feel differently about this in the years to come and certainly park benches are a better fate than houses, but as usual I have more the sense of something precious that’s been lost.

rye3A muddy path winds its way through the curving meadow. The morning mist rises from the Rye and spills over in pale wreaths that spread over the green. It requires nothing more complicated than that to give rise to the most profound, heart wrenching beauty. To take advantage of what that path has to offer, you have only to put your feet upon it and walk its length. You do not need to replace the muddy path with compacted gravel walkways, and you do not need to scrape away the rough green pasture of our grandfathers, in order to plant fledgling ornamental trees that the yobs will break long before they ever see a bud, and you do not plant park benches upon it, for suddenly the very thing that made the place so special has gone – obliterated by its apparent improvement.

Am I a fool to feel this way? Or am I the only one with eyes to see?

Read Full Post »