Our roadside verges are currently under-managed possibly due to lack of Council funds. Now, I am not complaining about this as I am all for leaving the verges unkempt. Why? Because during the months of June the edges of our country roads are a delight. Possibly many motorists whizzing through Tuddenham, Culpho and Grundisburgh see very little and yet they are missing so much since the hedgerows and verges are a mass of colour. June is indeed a glorious month even if it is not “busting out all over”. What a great year for poppies, especially where the earth has been churned up by the great scarring of our Suffolk landscape by Ae1 who are laying pipes to carry the energy created by the wind farms off our coast. As I ride (slowly) I see red and white campions, mauve mallow everywhere, purple thistles, delicate scabious, tall foxgloves, yellow hawk-weed, beautiful pink dog-roses, white bindweed, various hogweeds including the dreaded hemlock, clumps of honeysuckle and cascading elder flowers, old man’s beard and the large seed-heads of goats beard.
I have just read an astonishing article about New Zealand’s plan ‘to kill every rat’ in that country (stoats and possums as well) because these predators are seen to be the cause of the gradual extinction of the kiwi, the emblem of New Zealand. This plan has been branded as being unrealistic by critics but I am of the opinion that it is forward-thinking by New Zealand’s conservationists. Kiwi numbers have plummeted to about 68,000 and this icon will be extinct within 50 years if nothing is done. Now, if New Zealand can do this, then why cannot a similar culling scheme begin in this country with the grey squirrels? I have mentioned many times before about the menace of grey squirrels. They do so much harm to our songbird population and, maybe, if there were to be an organised cull of this non-native mammal, perhaps we might see the re-colonisation of our countryside by our native red squirrel. My hopes do not run high.
My last jottings brought some response, both agreement and criticism, which I appreciated. One suggested that I could be seen as a grumpy old man. To this I say maybe but with old age there usually comes experience and, with luck, some wisdom. I have known our Park for over 60 years and have recorded its wildlife for much of that time. I have seen Park Managers come and go, watched the demise of Park Keepers and also the Park’s gardeners. I have also seen the lessening presence of the local policeman, together with an increasing rise in anti-social behaviour and, last but not least, a general lack of respect for our Park and its glorious facilities. I am no angel (or not yet anyway) since when I was a boy I wasn’t always well-behaved. I used fish in the ponds of Holywells Park with a bent pin and a piece of cotton, being regularly chased away by a ‘parkie’. Even worse, I even ‘peed’ in the ponds and scrumped apples from the Park’s orchard. You see, though I was brought up on a Council estate, I never set fire to anything and my mother insisted I brought home my sandwich wrappings (though they were paper ones as plastic cling-film did not exist and anyway we could not have afforded it). I was occasionally at the receiving end of a cane at school and eventually conscripted into the Grenadier Guards which somewhat sorted me out. My sole boyhood interests were art and natural history, interests that have remained throughout my life.
There are several pairs of yellowhammers nesting in the hedgerows on my journey to my studio. Today I found a male yellowhammer dead in the road; such a lovely bird, what a shame!