A couple of weeks ago when I was suffering from serious man-cold, I took to reading Bill Bryson’s ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’, which is about this American/Brit author’s adventures pottering about the UK. It’s an interesting and amusing read, and one of those where you can easily have a nap at any spot and then seamlessly pick up where you left off. Perfect for we senior folks. I don’t know whether you find this, but sometimes there’s a bit in a book which brings you skidding to a halt. For me, this was it in ‘The Road to Little Dribbling’ – ‘I (Bryson) read once that the furthest distance the average American will walk without getting into a car is 600 feet, and I fear the modern British have become much the same, except that on the way back to the car the British will drop some rubbish and get a tattoo.’
I don’t know about the 600 feet, maybe the tattoo, but I am inclined to agree whole-heartedly about the rubbish. Kirkheaton is a nice village but is increasingly becoming an eyesore, and particularly, in the more rural spots where it’s apparently ok to toss your rubbish out of the car window or just drop it where you are walking rather than carry it home. And I don’t think it’s just one person scattering the entire contents of a skip but rather a host of people who can’t be bothered to dispose properly of their lager cans, crisp packets, McDonalds cartons etc etc.
I watched a video once about a single plastic bag which was dropped in a supermarket car park. It blew away until it finally landed in the river. From there, it floated to another river and finally on to the sea where it found its way into the stomach of a turtle, dolphin or whale. Most of the world’s discarded rubbish ends up in an ocean. (If you’re not convinced, have a look in the river next time you are in the HTFC/Odeon car park)
In addition to our countryside looking like a tip, animals can easily suffer serious harm by our inconsiderate actions and I wish people would just stop and think before they hurl their next piece of rubbish into the hedgerow.
Usually when I write about Kirkheaton, I enthuse about the countryside, the miles of footpaths, the scenery and the wildlife but I really think it’s now time to call out those mindless litter-louts who are trashing our village, and do what we can to restore some pride.
The other day, I was standing on the footpath at the top side of the quarry gazing at yet another discarded plastic water bottle and asking myself, ‘Why?’ when my mind snapped back to nature mode with the song of a skylark high above me. This engaging melody went on for ages before it suddenly stopped, the bird folded its wings and dropped like a stone to the ground. I scanned the field for a while and was rewarded with the sight of six birds flitting around in the long grass. My spirits were lifted. It’s spring, the skylarks are back from wherever their preferred winter feeding grounds are and they’ll be starting to breed now, perhaps producing up to three clutches throughout the season.
Further down in the quarry, a dozen lapwings were staking out their territory ready for nesting and, up on the thermals, a pair of buzzards tumbled together in their mating rituals.
It was about this time last year when I set off before dusk for a night time forage. For a couple of hours, I sat down in a field where I had seen evidence of badgers digging. As the darkness set in I was entertained by the call and answer of a pair of tawny owls. Then, at 8pm, distant clapping for the NHS. Soon I was rewarded by the sight of not one, but four badgers snuffling and digging nearby before continuing on their nightly journey.
You can find evidence of these fascinating animals wherever you walk, holes dug in the soft earth where they have been searching for worms. But to see them you’ve got to get out at night and join their world. A night time walk gives an entirely different perspective to the countryside. Quiet, peaceful and often very rewarding.
The walk back home in that first lockdown was eerie with only the stars and moon for company. No traffic, no people, no sound other than that of another pair of tawnies calling from the wood – and no rubbish anywhere that I could see…
But daylight arrives and it’s still there making the place untidy and waiting to harm the animals I’ve just enjoyed. So here’s a challenge – If you can’t manage without a lager on your walk in the countryside, please take the empty can home, and next time you see someone throw something, don’t just walk by. Do something.
A couple of days ago, I caught my big toe in a small hole in my trouser leg and it instantly morphed into a 3” tear. I thought at the time that I needed to get it sewn up. The next day, my toe found the hole so much easier and the tear became 9”. If we don’t fix things quickly, they usually go downhill fast. We need to do something about this litter problem now or we’ll disappear under KFC cartons and lager cans. Let’s not wait for someone else to clean up, let’s all do our bit. That way, we might get our village looking nice again and safer for the creatures with whom we share our planet.
Addendum – Last evening, I heard the distinct sound of a tipper truck dumping its contents in a nearby lane. I shot out of the garden just in time to see the culprit leaving his shed load of sofa and cupboards. The police and the local authority now have his registration number.