Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Would you know a sheep if you saw one?


The Yorkshire Dales National Park is sixty years old this week and there are plans afoot to extend in so that it joins up in places with the Lake District National Park, as they are so close together. We actually live outside the National Park by two or three miles, so we have the best of both worlds - we can appreciate its scenery without all its restrictions on planning and suchlike.

Both the farmer and I are "Country People" - he has lived here all his life. Although I lived in a city for twenty years I spent all my spare time in the countryside and longed to get back there to live when I retired. But everyone is not besotted with the countryside and why should they be?

A "townie" friend came to stay for a while. We told her we would be going on country walks, so bring her walking shoes. The first time we got dressed up in our walking gear she came downstairs in two inch heels - "These are my walking shoes," she said. "The rest of my shoes have three inch heels!"

Now there has been "A survey" done and the results were published yesterday in the farmer's daily paper. There is no indication of who did the survey, where it was done, how many people were questioned, under what conditions they were questioned - so as far as I am concerned the "results" are pretty worthless. But this is what the so-called survey found:-


One third of those asked had never been into the countryside and had no desire to go there.

One in ten of those asked could not identify a sheep.

Forty-four per cent could not identify an oak tree.

Eighty-three percent did not recognise a bluebell.

Twelve per cent, when shown a photograph of a stag, thought it was a reindeer.


Now the countryside is my life - I cannot imagine ever living anywhere else now. But that does not mean I think everyone else should feel the same. I think it is quite possible that I could be shown photographs of things in the city that I could not identify. What, you may ask? Well how do I know what if I am going to be unable to identify it?

The Professor of Tourism at the University of Surrey says he feels it is quite alarming that over half the nation thinks the British Countryside is boring and feels it may be due to British people holidaying abroad so that they have forgotten what joys there are to be had in the countryside.

My feeling is that we should live and let live. If that eighty-three percent who can't recognise a blue bell when they see one are encouraged to come out into the country and find one - please oh please let them stay away from the secret bluebell wood I know. I am keeping a careful eye on the progress of those startlingly blue......well, bells.......and shall post a photograph for you to identify in due course!

42 comments:

Teresa said...

Glad to hear you're keeping watch on the bluebell woods. There was a beautiful bluebell wood near where I used to live (suburbs of Nottingham - this was 37 years ago) and it has since become a housing development. I realize people needs homes, but it saddens me to know that lovely spot where I roamed as an adolescent among the sparkling bluebells and dappled forest floor has gone forever.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Sadly, some of my closest human friends have no interest whatsoever in the countryside and think it is boring.

For me the countryside is a constant source of inspiration and delight. But I still get my tree and plant identifications wrong!

Heather said...

It is very worrying when vital decisions are probably being made about the countryside by some of those people who think it is boring and don't know a sheep from an oak tree! I possibly don't know as much as I should about the countryside, but I love it and want to safeguard it.

Derrick said...

Hello Weaver,

I reckon I could manage three out of four! What was that in your photograph again?!

I enjoy looking at the countryside and appreciate the beauty. I don't mind the odd stroll but I don't need to be right in the midst of it! I do believe, however, that for the size of our island, Britain still has a huge amount of green space.

Phoenix C. said...

The countryside is my life too. I echo what Raph says.

(Three-inch heels do have a great use for scarifying the lawn and keeping fit at the same time! As long as you remember to clean the mud off before wearing them to a concert or whatever.)

Arija said...

Yes please, mine will flower again in September so I look forwardto yours.

Cathy said...

It's sad but true that there are many that couldn't tell you anything about nature. When my daughters were very small I caught them identifing wildflowers for my ex mother-in-law! She didn't know a violet from a dandelion and wouldn't know a horse from a cow either. How can we expect our land to be cared for if people are not taught even the basics? Is technology really that much more important? I try not to think about it too much. It's too sad.

jinksy said...

I wonder how many of those 'statistics' were even English to begin with? Or Welsh? Or Scottish? Maybe they were all 'British', from anywhere but the UK...

Leenie said...

Yes, please. We need to protect some of the beauty of this world and not pave it all over or ruin it by ignorance. My question is: what kind of sheep in the photo? The black faces with white noses are a new one to me.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Sadly, I'm not surprised by the survey results. So many young or even middle-age (when, exactly, is middle-age?) people in the U.S. would reveal similar lack of nature/country knowledge.

They have no idea, really, that food comes from living plants and animals. (No way that squarish reddish thing plastic wrapped in the grocer's freezer case was once a living, breathing steer; that's a steak! Steaks aren't dead cow parts!) I can't begin to tell you how many cashiers are unable 'to tell the difference between a potato and a parsnip, green beans from peas, or wheat flour from cornmeal. If it's not on the package, they don't know what the stuff is—could be weeds and dirt.

The worry is, as Heather and others pointed out, that when you lose touch with the land—with nature and farms, animals and grass—you lose touch with reality. The land sustains us. But if you don't know about something, you can't appreciate it and be willing to protect it. A freeway through a national park? Why not? Cut down and pave this woodland? Sure, new condos are important. Dump waste and chemicals in the streams? Fine…they're just a bunch of smelly old waterways, like unused ditches—right?

You don't have to be a skilled naturalist or countryman to make good decisions. I'd trust someone like Raph to consider, become informed, and do the right thing. I don't trust anyone who finds the outdoors boring and valueless. They're prime prey for those whose greed cares not a whit about tomorrow.

EB said...

Thank goodness half of them think it's boring - would that it were more! Aren't the country roads clogged enough in the summer? Well, in the most popular areas at least.

The disadvantage of the lack of interest is that problems in the countryside can seem rather irrelevant to those who don't care about it.

On the recognition of sheep... erm, well. I have seen sheep that look very like goats, and vice versa (especailly abroad), and I have at least once referred to a sheep in the distance that was to my sharper-eyed husband very clearly a large rock!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Bluebells are in a class of their own, Teresa - I know just the wood and shall post a photo when I can.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Raph - what does identification of plants and trees matter when one loves the countryside.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting point about vital decisions Heather - that has always happened in farming and it can be very frustrating.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree Derrick - and after all you live in a very small town - so have instant access to the countryside even if you don't actually live in it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Phoenix - thanks for visiting - yes heels are good for scarifying but pretty hard on the back.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Arija - it is lovely to blog with someone on the other side of the world, where our seasons are reversed.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Cathy - I know people here in the country who cannot tell one bird from another and are not really interested in them.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Jinksy - those statistics were pretty dodgy I think - I am always suspicious when no source is given. Also I am never sure that people speak the truth when they are asked questions for a survey.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Leenie - the sheep are Swaledale sheep(most of them - certainly the ones with black faces and white noses). They are what is called hefted sheep - they come down off the hill tops to our fields for the winter and any day now they will go back again on to the tops - and they know exactly where they can and can't go - so they don't wander too far - they pass this knowledge on to their offspring.

The Weaver of Grass said...

So true Scribe.
You ask what is middle age? I don't know as I haven't got there yet - I'll let you know when I do - at present I mostly feel about twenty - but there are days when you can quadruple that!

The Weaver of Grass said...

EB - I know what you mean about mixing up sheep and goats in Mediterranean countries - we all do it - there is a fine line between one and the other I think.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I was intrigued by that survey, really worrying when you think about it, that people are just so unaware and uninterested

Reader Wil said...

We once met a Welsh farmer and I asked him the name of a weed with beautiful flowers. He said:" That? Oh we call it weed".
Thanks for your visit! Of course you can copy my post. I got it from my daughter and she got it from one of her friends.

HelenMHunt said...

Not being able to recognise a sheep is a bit worrying!

Gramma Ann said...

I always lived in the country until 11 years ago when we moved to this small town. I enjoyed country living but, now in my golden years I have been enjoying my town living. As the old saying goes: "Home is where the heart is!"

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Only quadruple? You're doing better than me—of course, fool that I was at 17, I spent a season at rodeo, riding (theoretically, but mostly falling off) broncs and bulls. So I felt like 20 at 18; and on my good days…well, 21—30. But I think like I'm 20 a lot—does that count?

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

This is really interesting Weaver. Sad people think the countryside is boring. I think at times when all people see is green fields and some animals grazing as they pass by on a motorway that's all they see. I watch Time Team a lot on the History Channel. I love the Countryside you are so privileged to have and yes I'm a a country person too even though I was born in Auckland. I know what a blue bell is and so do my girls even though they aren't native to New Zealand. Twenty years ago children in the city used to know where milk came from now most think it comes from a carton - which of course we know it doesn't. Urban development destroys a lot of wonderful natural landscapes. No the countryside is wonderful not boring. Those who think it is don't know what they're missing.

Pam said...

Does it help to know that a lot of us save up like crazy to travel from the bottom down-under side of the world just to see that beautiful(boring??) countryside? Green, lush, and sheep that don't look scawny and dusty!

Cloudia said...

Thank you for this most lovely post!

I have made my peace with folks who visit us in Hawaii and only see the beach, missing the REAL treasure! Oh well, more "bluebells" for their fans!

Aloha

Marites said...

2 inch heels for walking? I hope she didn't got hurt with those:)

I'm a city girl myself but I like going to the countryside from time to time. There's something healing about it.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Gee, this is sad. I mean, even you aren't especially fond of the country, shouldn't you know what a bluebell looks like? If only from books? As for me, I have to get to the country every now and then or I lose my mind!!

acornmoon said...

We are so divorced from nature and our food supplies nowadays that we are in danger of failing to protect the land that feeds us. I find the whole thing very depressing. Like you I grew up in a town but within easy reach of the countryside, I cannot imagine life without bluebells and oak trees. Maybe we should bring back the nature table at school.

BarbaraS said...

I'm a country-reared girl, but I live in a town. I still hanker after the country and am lucky to have access to it: from my desk I can see the Cooley mountains and the coast is less than a mile from where I sit. The kids like being brought out to the woods in those mountains, because we enthuse about it, but I don't ram it down their throats. Country is as country does...

Phoenix said...

Indeed, I'd say the statistics are surprising.. though I agree with the reason ascribed... people don''t visit the countryside .. I lived NY for a couple of years, half an hour from Manhattan, and there Metro North would have very attractively priced countryside trips.. I took several of them, and was surprised to see that even from crowded New York, so few people would actually go on these getaways..

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. It seems we are all pretty depressed that people are so ignorant of country life - but if they were all mad about it then it would be very crowded. Scribe - do you mean to say that you feel even older than quadrupled? I presume it is all the knocks and bumps from that rodeoing!

Elizabeth said...

Gosh!
Nothing I like better than tramping round with a dog in muddy wellies........Am I a dying species?
Also boring old nature study -- I was a whizz at identifying leaves etc.
Do you remember the little "Observer's Book of....."
So sad.
However, I'm sure their are things people find lots of fun that I don't........I'm sure they would think I was a weirdo!

Elizabeth said...

THERE are.......
grammatical error above!

patteran said...

I'm with EB. May bucolic boredom amongst the townie thrive so the rest of us can take a walk across heath or hills with minimum chance of a human encounter!

Leilani Lee said...

It is similarly shocking to meet clerks at the market who have to be that the fruit is a mango or a plum, and have never eaten asparagus.

BT said...

What a strange survey and what very odd results. I'd like to know who they asked and how many! We have quite a few bluebells on our meadow and in a little walk under blackthorn which we called 'Bluebell walk' long before we knew there were actually bluebells there!! I love the countryside, though I was brought up in the suburbs of London. We had a caravan on the Isle of Sheppey and spent many happy weeks there.

Janice Thomson said...

When I lived in the country as a child the bright lights of the city attracted me. When I grew up I could hardly wait to get back to the country again. Can't wait to see the bluebells!