Posts Tagged ‘litter’

The way of the material man is the conversion of material into money. It’s a process that inevitably leads us away from nature, towards the building of cities. Cities shun nature, while absorbing vast quantities of people, fossil fuels and water, and from these nutrients they grow. And as they grow, they eject filth. The way of the material man is thus ill-suited to the presence of the natural world and the sooner it is consumed entirely the better. As for the filth, it’s fine so long as it’s not on his own doorstep.

In the city, mankind is organized for commerce, exploiters and exploited living in handy proximity. The accumulation of money is then the measure of a man’s success, that one man’s shoes are worth more than another man’s car. Nature, soul, spirit, indeed the whole of metaphysics is dismissed as an obsession of the weird. This is an old story, one often told, but in which the happy-endings we crave seem less and less plausible.

Meanwhile, the rubbish of the city spills outwards from its bounds, scattered by its itinerant emissaries along the leafy byways and the ferny dells whose misfortune it is to lie an easy drive away. Supermarket carrier bags are snagged in the boughs of trees. There, they are torn season by season into the filthy grey battle-banners of further urbanization.

But not everyone is drawn to cities. Indeed, they’ve always horrified me. To my eye there is something dead about them, no matter how lively they might appear on the surface. I have drawn the ire of city folk for saying such things. But the cities are such vibrant places, I’m told. They are centres of culture, indeed the very epicentres of governance and civilization. Would you find the Elgin Marbles, or a Van Gough on display in a provincial village library? Would you find the seat of a nation’s power residing in the village old folk’s hut?

I counter that the cities also deaden the sensibilities. They deny easy reconnection with the natural world. Instead, they attempt to assimilate it, while colouring it as grey as the city environment. No stars are visible from its streets, and the skylark does not sing its praises. Cities cradle violence. They incubate neuroses and paranoia. And in the city’s virulent graffiti there is the metaphor of a poor, lonesome dog chewing raw its own paws for entertainment.

So, the country lanes, within easy driving distance of cities, are hung with bags of dog muck, ubiquitous markers of urban neuroses, centred upon the interests of the self. The lay-bys are strewn with nitrous oxide cartridges, each one a lamentable attempt at gaining fleeting release, but which colours only more warmly the urban way and forgives the jettison of another load of McTrash out the car window. As for the hanging of the prophylactic’s hurried orgasm on the barbed wire’s thorns,… well,… the least said on that one the better, but I guess by now you know where I’m going with all of this.

Year by year, it’s harder to say hell isn’t where we’re heading. And while this may indeed be so, the material man cares nothing, and has not the nous to understand the poisoned haiku of a beer-can in the hedge. Yes, we all need money to live, but money is also imaginary, and it imprisons us. It has us valuing the wrong things. A man of soul will admire the oak for its expression, and it having known so many generations. A man of money will cut it down and have it sawn as planks to sell. The man of soul feels its loss, the man of money looks for another oak to fell. Which one is the fool? The man of soul seeks the ineffable, the magical in a landscape. The man of money puts a fence around it, builds a hotel and a golf course.

The country boy under siege turns to philosophy. He risks New Age quackery, and dallies with paganism. He takes up meditation, studies Buddhism, Daoism, indeed any bloody “ism” that does not champion the material. He asks: How does a Zen master view the city’s inexorable sprawl? The all knowing Google machine answers: “Where to buy the city’s inexorable sprawl”; “who owns the city’s inexorable sprawl”; “how to market the city’s inexorable sprawl”. And then, even less helpfully, “where to find a Zen Master?” and “what is Zen?”

I suppose if we take the longer view, it doesn’t matter. Civilizations come and go. Ours will be no different. A thousand years from now, I imagine an archaeologist scraping layers of mud from the outline of my house. And he will add my leavings to the average assessment of the broader culture, and the times I lived in. He will assume I was a material man, for what evidence will there be to the contrary?

We are all the product of an age and a zeitgeist. So, as Chris Rea sings, this might well indeed be The Road to Hell, and no bother, for there never was a golden age. Blink and we’re all gone. More than that, we never existed in the first place. Walk up and down the room, and where are your footprints? As for the search for the bucolic, that route without a single bag of dog muck to mark the way, it’s a fantasy born of too romantic a vision of the world, while real human beings just aren’t like that. All of which means of course, it’s me who’s the freak.

I’d advise the urban folk please to follow the countryside code, except the latest version reads like it was focus-grouped by weekend Welly wearers only, not deliberated upon by countrymen with any serious intent to protect. Perhaps Chris Rea would have included that line in the song, except he couldn’t find a decent rhyme for Welly. So I tell them to read Richard Jeffries’ instead. “The Story of my Heart” will do. Or “The Amateur Poacher”. His world isn’t something any of us will ever know, but perhaps in realizing what it is we’ve already lost, we’ll hesitate to further desecrate what very little there is left.

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On the Parsons Bullough road

As I draw a glass of tap water to take to bed this evening, I’m glad it comes from the Lake District, or I might be giving it a miss. I spent the day in the West Pennines, around the Anglezarke reservoirs. The water from Anglezarke doesn’t supply my area but passes it by, on the way to serving Liverpool. There were people swimming in it, in spite of orders not to, and no doubt urinating while they were at it. And then, at the lonely head of Dean Black Brook, which serves the Anglezarke catchment system, and miles from anywhere, I’d chanced upon the bloated corpse of a disposable baby’s nappy.

It’s indicative of the times and of a people with not the sense to avoid fouling their own nests. It’s also metaphorical in a greater sense, of the degradation of the world’s ecosystems, due to the self-interest of ignorants. I’m sure such impurities are neutralized at the treatment works,… and the people of Liverpool can rest easy tonight. I’m still glad my water comes from the Lakes though.

Other than that, it was a good day on the moors. Okay, my timing wasn’t great: a good forecast coinciding with a release from the stay-at-home order. But I was relieved to be walking somewhere other than from my doorstep, so plans were laid and an early start intended. But then my good lady reminded me it was Holy Week.

“It’s what?”

“All the kids are off,” she clarified.

“Oh, shit,” I said.

I was pleasantly surprised then to be the only one parking up at Parson’s Bullough. It was brutally early though, and I was confident it would be a different story in a few hours, so best get moving. The West Pennines have always been popular, but they’ve been gaining visitor numbers, especially during the furlough period with people travelling in from well outside the area, in spite of various stay at home orders. The stress is really beginning to show. Plenty of other areas are suffering the same, virtue of a small country with few wilderness areas left, and a large, mostly urban population, for many of whom even the basics of the countryside code is an unknown concept.

My preferred route up Hurst Hill, via the Pikestones is off the usual ways, and still in good condition, but from Hurst Hill to the Round Loaf, and on to the intersection with the path coming off Great Hill, there’s clearly been a lot of traffic, including bikes which have no business there. The bikes are cutting deep wounds through the sphagnum and the sedge, so the peat bleeds out. And there’s litter, even in the remotest parts. That nappy at the headwaters of Dean Black Brook was a case in point. Full marks for getting so young a child up there, but could you not have taken its doings home?

The Pikestones – remains of a chambered burial mound

Anyway, having said that, I’d left my sit-mat at the Pikestones – I’ve lost a few like that – which is its own kind of littering I suppose, and I apologize for my gormlessness. If you find it, consider it a gift – it’s quite a comfy one. If you’d rather not, I’m sure I’ll be back up that way when the Easter madness is over to collect it.

From Great Hill, I took the long, lovely route over Spitlers and Redmond’s edge. This is moorland walking at its best, climbing to just shy of 1300 feet. The views east and west are always spectacular, but particularly gorgeous this morning in the de-saturated spring light – a clear blue sky over varying shades of khaki and russet, and all criss-crossed by tumbled down lines of drystone walling.

On Spitler’s Edge

In the olden days, this route was barely passable because of erosion, but conservation efforts have restored it, basically laying flagstones end to end, all the way to Will Narr. They focus the footsteps to a narrow, meandering line, bridging the peat hags, and sparing disturbance to vegetation and wildlife. There was a lot of traffic on this section today, it being a popular route up Great Hill from the Belmont road. Most of the groups I met were covid-polite, exchanging the usual courtesies. Others were less so, and there were loose dogs, some of them big and troublesome, whose owners seem not to understand every passing stranger doesn’t want to make friends with their animal.

I was once caught in a storm up this way – big hailstones driven horizontally like cannon fire in a gale force wind. My thoughts at the time were: I cannot possibly die in the West Pennines, it being home ground – Striding Edge maybe, or the Hall’s Fell ridge, there’d be some glory in that, but not here. I ducked for shelter into a timely peat hag, and waited it out.

There were more difficulties on the path around the Hempshaws ruins, a mixture of heavy rain, massed footfall and bikes again, where there should be no bikes. There are many ruined farms on the moors hereabouts, abandoned in the 1920’s and 30’s, their remains shelled for practice during the second world war. I think Higher Hempshaws is one of the most picturesque – an emotive ruin, and still a pair of gritstone windows to frame the moor. This was the main objective of the day, though a long way round to get at it, and I spent a bit of time there with lunch and photography.

Higher Hempshaws ruin

The route back was along the broad farm-track to Lead Mine’s clough. I remember being upset when they curt this through, in the 80’s as a service road for the plantations. But I’m glad for it now, as a fast and firm route across the moor. I met several people on it, skimpily attired in shorts and tee-shirts, while I ambled along in several layers and a hat. It had been cool up on the edges, but at this lower altitude the day was definitely warming.

“Can we get round to the top of Lead Mine’s Valley this way?

A map would have told them, told them also of the difficulties in undertaking such an expedition. But they didn’t have one.

“Em, well, you can take the path over Standing Stones Hill, and swing round to the west a bit, but it’s trackless and needs care.”

Looks clueless: “Which one’s Standing Stones Hill then?”

Points: “Em, that one. Rough going though. Really rough, and likely to be boggy.”

“Oh, we’ll be fine.”

The lady and her little dog looked done in. The guy would be carrying them both soon. An off-piste jaunt over tussock grass was not a good idea, but it was hardly my place to say so. I trust they’d the sense to turn back when the going got tough.

On my return, I could barely find the car. There were vehicles everywhere, youths cackling as they swigged lager, and there were people in wetsuits climbing out of the Yarrow Reservoir. The Yarrow is so deep, it gives me nightmares just thinking about it, and I swear there’s a dragon lives at the bottom.

Just your typical mid-week Holy Week in the West Pennines then? There was a time when it was only like this on Bank Holidays and you could more easily calculate to avoid them. Now it’s like this all the time. Still, I had a good walk, and a welcome change of scene, covered around seven miles and a thousand feet of ascent. But as always, the stress on the moors pains me. And of course it’s Easter weekend coming up, so they’ll soon be on fire again. It’s what we do. We foul our nest, and set fire to it, be it Anglezarke moor, or planet earth, instead of thinking: we really need to look after this, because it’s all we’ve got, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

On second thoughts, if you’re in Liverpool tonight, I’d get some beer in, and avoid the tap-water.

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southport sunsetSo,.. out walking with my phone in my back pocket. Not a good idea, cracked the screen and killed it. On the upside it’s a Chinese ‘Droid, so it didn’t cost much, and all the important stuff was saved to the removable memory anyway. All told then, nothing lost and in true consumerist tradition I threw it away and ordered a new one from Amazon. This was Sunday, just before midnight when I placed the order, standard postage, nothing special. I was thinking it would do me good to be without the phone for a bit – teach me to be more careful. However,…

Next day, Monday, a bank holiday and there’s a white van outside come mid-afternoon: ‘Sign here mate’. Package delivered, and I’m holding my new phone in a state of bemused awe. Okay, this doesn’t happen with everything you buy off Amazon – and you usually have to pay a premium for next day delivery, so I’d clearly hit upon a set of fortuitous circumstances here, but it illustrates how the machinery is gearing up to provide us with an instant gratification. But is this what we really want? Given the direction things are moving in it seems to be what we want, and it’s impressive, but do we really need it? And rather than being served, are we not merely being used, abused and generally hoodwinked into expectations that are ultimately self destructive?

While I was sitting in my garden, sunning myself all Monday, the guy in the white van had been up since dawn, sorting his deliveries out, then sweating on one of the hottest days of the year while fighting his way through bank holiday traffic along with so many other diesel belching white vans, each making their own manic deliveries, and all so we could get our stuff faster than we really needed it. But before doing his bit, it was another guy pushing a trolley in a warehouse to get my thing, his feet and knees killing him, the machine counting him down to a telling off for going too slow, that he’d better hurry up, keep pace, deliver more stuff to replace all the other stuff he found last week that’s already been thrown away.

But don’t worry about the human exploitation angle. In the near future, our stuff will be picked and packed and bagged entirely by machine and given to a drone for delivery. No humans involved. We’ll all be living within an hour’s flying time of a fulfilment centre by then, and the thing will be dropped off to a landing zone in our back yard, or maybe we’ll be fitting delivery chutes to our roofs and they’ll be as ubiquitous as chimney pots. Then we’ll be grinding our teeth if the drop’s five minutes late, berating the quality of a drone that struggles to make time against a howling gale. Total time to fulfilment? a couple of hours, and we’ll be looking to cut that in half. The infrastructure will facilitate it, and we’ll get used to it, and expect it, whether we really need it to be that way or not.

So, safe now in possession of my new phone, having been without one for all of fifteen hours – and ten of those asleep – I drove out to the coast, secure in the knowledge it was tracking my every move and could guide me back home if need be. But the coast, on the evening of a Bank Holiday Monday was like the aftermath of a rock festival – litter strewn as far as the eye could see. The promenades were thick with it, the beaches too. You could even see outlines in it where the cars had been parked and all this discarded stuff had just spewed from the open windows. Fast food cartons, plastic bags, blobs of ice-cream,…

Feral seagulls feasted on all the food waste, and what they missed the rats would get come fall of night. The tide was coming in; scent of the sea, scent of disposable barbecues and recreational weed. In a few hours the beaches would give up their filth, and the sea would gulp it down, vomiting it back up wherever the ocean currents took it.

While the machine pioneers pioneer ever faster ways of telling us what we want, then getting it to us ahead of when we want it, whether we really want it, or need it, or not, the aftermath of a bank holiday Monday provides no better illustration of the price we pay for a society hooked on consumption and instant gratification. And the price we pay is this: we are drowning in our own effluent. And it’s too late to do anything about it because our heads are so far inside this box now we’re losing sight of the light of day.

We all had our phones out, taking pictures of the sunset and cooing over it while stepping around the trash. I took a picture of a waste bin, dwarfed by mountains of rubbish piled beside it. I was thinking to post it here, but it turned my stomach, so I deleted it, kept the sunset, posted that to Instagram, self censored like everyone else, so I can go on pretending the world is still a beautiful place.

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I enjoyed a shorter walk this weekend, a little closer to home,  in the company of my good lady and number two son. The West Pennine moors and Rivington used to be my back yard, and I would visit them most weeks. As a child, my bedroom window had a view of  them stretching from Great Hill to Smithills moor, and bang in the middle was Rivington Pike. So,.. I knew these hills in all their seasons, explored every inch of them with my telescope, and later, as a young man wiht a motorbike,  with my boots. They were the hills of home, a fold of  land possessed of a particular shape, by which I navigated my place in the world. In terms of altitude, they fall just shy of 1500′ (Winter Hill), the Pike itself being 1196′ and a respectable hike, though somewhat easier of access.


There’s nothing like an occasional long absence for bringing home to you the difference between rose-tinted memory and base reality.

The West Pennines are an important reserve, an important wilderness in the declining catalogue of Britain’s wild open spaces, but they’re also an indication of how the urbanite British value such places, which judging by this weekend’s appearances, isn’t very much. In short Rivington Pike is awash with trash. I don’t remember it ever being as  bad as it was today. Everywhere I looked the trail was littered, dumped, and indeed crapped upon with all manner of sordid detritus. Oh deary me, it was grim!

By contrast, last weekend, I walked from the little Cumbrian village of Grasmere and trekked for eight miles over Tarn Crag and Helm Crag, returning to my car some six and a half hours later, and I know I harped on a bit about how much is cost me to park my car at Broadgate Meadow, but really, I saw not a single piece of trash, and that £6.50 suddenly doesn’t seem so extravagant! My experience was of a pristine wilderness, uplifting, pure, and utterly breathtaking.

The trek up the Pike today also took my breath away, but for other reasons.

The proximity of several large towns is no coincidence of course: Bolton, Horwich, Chorley, Blackburn,… the area is a short drive away from getting on for a million potential visitors, and they’re clearly putting the area under a severe strain. Littering is something you shouldn’t do of course and theoretically you can be fined for it, but our towns can be waist deep in the stuff, so enforcement is clearly not a priority and the populace obviously look upon the regulations with equal contempt. It may be that urban living instills in one the sense that it’s the council’s job to tidy up – after all what do we pay our taxes for? But out in the remoter countryside, up Rivington Pike, if a disposable nappy, to quote one rather unpalatable example, is dumped under a bush to attract the flies, that’s probably where it’s going to stay, and nature’s going to have a hard time breaking it’s more synthetic constituents down. So, next time I wander up that way, I’m not going to be thinking to myself: oh here’s where that dog rose was growing last time, or: here’s where I get the best view of the Ribble estuary – it’s going to be: oh dear, this is where that nappy’s lying under that bush!

As we approached the Pike a gang of teenaged lads came tearing down the hillside on their mountain bikes, scattering young and old asunder as they made their careless, brake screeching way, effing and blinding at the tops of their voices as they passed. Now, I have been known to utter the occasional expletive myself – you don’t grow up in an engineering factory without gaining a working knowledge of colourful language, but no matter how hard you cursed with your colleagues, it was always considered bad form to do it in front of women and children. I found I was embarrassed, indeed ashamed I had brought my good lady and my son with me. This landscape meant so much to me once, and I had wanted to share it, but instead found myself having to come to terms with the fact that it was looking a little worn, evene a little sordid.

All right, if you want a quiet contemplative stroll, the last thing you do is climb Rivington Pike on a Sunday, but the litter, the eyesore, I’m afraid, is permanent. We are becoming careless of each other, yet paradoxically assuming little responsibility for ourselves, and instead assuming this contemptible other is at fault  for getting in our way, for not picking up the litter that we drop, and for generally not being there to take the blame for our own failings.

On occasion, I have picked the occasional gaudy cellophane wrapper out of the hedgerow and put it in my dustbin at home, so I feel very virtuous, but that shit filled, fly spotted nappy – well that’s someone else’s responsibility, I’m afraid.

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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?

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