Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Tidy but not too tidy please.

What actually constitutes tidiness?   Sometimes our lane can look a positive mess.   At present it is closed for the putting in of a new gas main, and it can only be used by the residents (very few).   But we are a tidy lot and the only mess is the unavoidable mess of the grass verges being dug up - and the gas men are doing their level best to keep this to a minimum.

But usually, when it is open to through traffic there is a lot of rubbish lying around - empty cigarette packets, beer cans, empty fast food boxes - presumably thrown from passing car windows.   And worst of all, plastic carrier bags and scraps of plastic, which tend to snag on bushes and hedges and flap about in the wind.

When my bad ankle is up to the walk, I sometimes don rubber gloves and wander up the road with a bag to pick up the litter.   I only do it for a short way - but anything is better than nothing.

However, we all see tidiness in a different way don't we?   Weeds are a case in point.   Our lane has a border of - first dandelions, then cow parsley, then meadow-sweet.   The hedges are swathed in wild honey-suckle and then in blackberry blossom.   In March there is sloe blossom and wild plum blossom too.   And amongst all this there is also ragged robin, the odd orchid, pink campion and one or two patches of cowslips.   'Weeds' abound in other words.   And so many people view weeds in a negative way.

Of course we don't like them in our flower gardens but the men with spray guns do tend to go round and spray indiscriminately.   I was reminded of this today when reading about John Constable and his painting of 'The Cornfield'.   He was living in London at the time he painted it, and most of the wild flowers which might have grown there left to their own devices, had disappeared.

There was a local botanist called Henry Phillips and he obliged Constable by sending him a list of the wild flowers growing around his home in Flatford.  "all the tall grasses are in flower, bogrush, bulrush, teasel.  The white bindweed hangs its flowers over the hedge, wild carrot and hemlock flowers in banks of hedges and the  rose-coloured pesicaria in wet ditches is very pretty.  He goes on - ragged robin, mallow, thistle.........

Tidiness can become 'mad tidiness' as Ronald Blythe says (which is where I got the information about Constable).   Many of our field margins have been mown so that the wild flowers have all but disappeared and the same goes for many of the grass verges alongside the roads.   It is lovely to see that on some of our motorways efforts have been made to reintroduce plants like cowslips, which in many cases have colonised whole banks on the roadside.

A weed is a plant that is unwanted in the garden, not in the countryside.  I would be sorry to see the thousands of dandelions which line the road from here to our little market town sprayed into extinction.   I look forward to them every year.  But I always hope that they are not decorated by the addition of rubbish which can so easily be put into a rubbish bin by any thinking person with an ounce of soul.

25 comments:

Minigranny said...

I do agree with you about litter and tidiness!! Litter is so depressing to see I cannot understand the mentality of the people who just throw things out of car windows. Tidiness can stifle the country though and I sometimes wonder if "Britain in Bloom" is a little to blame as it can 'gentrify' our villages and replace lovely little areas where wild flowers flourish with tubs of Begonias etc. Not that I have anything against Begonias!!

Frances said...

I agree that rubbish and litter are not at all as welcome as wildflowers and flowering weeds.

It's possible that you might be able to find, somewhere in the online site of The New Yorker magazine, newyorker.com, a 2015 article by the American humorist David Sedaris, who lives in the English countryside. He wrote about acquiring a device that measured how many steps he took each day, and that this device encouraged him to walk around his local lanes picking up litter. It is a very funny piece, but also quite thoughtful. I think that you'd enjoy reading it, as I have enjoyed this post of yours.

xo

jinxxxygirl said...

I never understand why people want to live in rubbish.. I mean i live on a dead end road.Unless someone has made a wrong turn most people who come down my road live here. So tell me why would they want to throw trash out the window of their vehicle and then have to drive by and see it everyday? I know i don't want to walk by it everyday on my daily walks... so eventually i will give in and take a trashbag on my walk and pick up the worst of it.. Your talk of wildflowers reminds me of the bluebonnets blooming along the roadsides in TX... I do miss that. You might investigate Eleanor Roosevelt former First Lady i believe it was who made it her mission to save the wildflowers here in the States.. Hugs! deb

Derek Faulkner said...

Tidiness is one of the worst enemies of wildlife. Clean up litter by all means but cutting verges, cutting hedges (especially with flayers), cleaning up overgrown patches, all mean the demise of many species of wildlife.

donna baker said...

Pat, I wondered if trash littered the countryside in other countries. It is a pet peeve of mine. It is terrible where I live. What kind of person throws trash out their car windows? Of course, they know it is wrong as I have never caught one doing it. I would have thought that the use of herbicides would have been greatly restricted by now. I didn't think they did it there. Man has wrought such havoc on the environment I wish the politicians would talk more about that. They would get my money and vote.

Heather said...

I am sometimes appalled by the amount of litter lining some roads and ashamed that my countrymen and women can be so thoughtless. Weeds and wild flowers are not such a problem, even in my garden, though when they come up under something precious I tend to get a bit ratty. If I was the countrywoman I like to think I am, I would use them according to their attributes but have become lazy in my old age, though I did make dandelion wine one year when the paddock we had was filled with the flowers.

Toni said...

We have a stretch of Highway 20 through the mountains where the state has spread wildflower seeds along the roadside. From March through early May the color is glorious. May through June, sometimes into July, depending on rain, golden poppies still dot the road here and there. Quite beautiful.

Maria said...

I always think that who litter usually do not live in the area - they would never do that in their own homes. Here, I often see litter fly out of lorries that have foreign number plates on them. Greetings Maria x

angryparsnip said...

I alway wonder if the people who throw garbage out the window, live like that at home ?
Never picking up or putting away.
The plastic shopping bags are one of the worst ideas ever. I always have my shopping bags with me.
Even ones that fold up very small and fit in my purse.
When I lived by the ocean the streets were alway full of dumped trash. Even though there were trash cans on the beach. In the summer I had to look in my yard before I let the dogs out, I would find KFC chicken boxes with bones, hamburger papers, sauce packets, drug syringes, beer bottles. Not all the time but enough. And I lived in a very beautiful and charming place.

cheers, parsnip

Wilma said...

Many Belizeans toss litter right at their front steps; they are "blind" to litter and it makes no visual impact on them. The other extreme can be almost as bad. Our neighbor in Minnesota would mow the county road verge as if was his lawn, wiping out cover and food sources for local wildlife. He didn't even want lilacs in his garden because he thought they grew "too loose". In my mind, either extreme shows a lack of respect for nature.

Gwil W said...

People should take their rubbish home. There's a place where cars and trucks park in a lay bye and just toss their energy drinks cans and sandwich wrappers and plastic water bottles and newspapers and oily rags and broken or unwanted gadgets into the hedgerows. In winter when the leaves are not there to hide the scene it's a terrible eyesore. I wonder what these people think when they throw their rubbish into the bushes. Why do they do it? Maybe somebody can explain. I'm at a loss.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Some years ago I used to spend most of my holidays walking in the Alps or the Pyrenees. Quite often on attaining a summit you'd find not only a wonderful view but also a pile of litter, beer cans most often. This poses two puzzles which I've never quite solved. 1) Why would someone go to the trouble of climbing a mountain if they have no appreciation of the scenery?
2) If you can carry a full can uphill, why can't you manage to carry an empty one down? What do they say in your part of the world? Nowt so queer as folk?

Mac n' Janet said...

I always look forward to the changing wildflowers along the roadside. Not weeds at all, just flowers of a different type.
As to litter, it amazes me that after 50-60 years of imploring people not to litter that the roadsides are worse than ever, why! I don't think I've ever thrown something out of a car window.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

The country lanes here seem to be used as a fly tip by all our local unlicensed waste collectors. Now that the value of scrap has gone down, that's what they are doing instead.

I love the flowers of spring, the so called weeds, now we have dandelion and daisies in the grass.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I don't like to see roadsides sprayed - at all. In CA they use trucks with boiling water in the tanks - it does still kill the plants - but at least poisons don't leach into the soil. The dandelion is one of the most important flowers in the world - it is the bees' first food in the late winter/early spring and they depend on it for survival. I love dandelions in our yard - they bloom and then disappear from the grass - such a friendly flower.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

And the dandelions are such welcome food for the bees after a long winter....It makes me sad when I meet people who do not appreciate the wildflowers along the road edges or the hedgerows. They are such a part of the beauty of the earth and its history.

Librarian said...

Just like everybody else who commented before me, I will never understand why people chuck litter out of their car windows or drop it when they walk somehwere. But I doubt I'll ever meet anyone who will honestly admit to doing that and explain to me why!

Wildflowers and "weeds" are so important for our environment. Here, some farmers have begun in recent years to re-introduce unmowed field borders and put wildflower seeds in them. Not only do they make a pretty picture in spring and summer, they are also really good for all sorts of small creatures.

potty said...

I could not understand why someone loads up his car with unwanted mattress/chairs/rubbish and takes it to a layby in the country to tip it rather that taking it to the municiple dump. Domestic waste is still free to dispose of isn't it?

The Weaver of Grass said...

As we are all agreed I have to assume that folk who drop litter are not folk who blog every day - at least on this site! Thanks for the comments everyone.

Pondside said...

Here I am, late to the discussion again.
Not much rubbish or garbage on the roads here. I guess it's a combination of the village crew and the neighbours. After a big wind there will always be some plastic bags and papers. As for weeds - it's so true that they are flowers that grow outside of a garden bed. The various municipalities here have sown wildflowers in the grass divide between lanes on the highways - so pretty to see on an otherwise-tedious drive.

Terry and Linda said...

I love dandelions also! They are such a sunny brightness after long dreary days of winter.

Linda

Terry and Linda said...

Oh, by the way...I loved the poem you told me to read. I answered you on my blog post, so everyone else could read it also.
Linda

The Weaver of Grass said...

Glad you read the poem Linda. The more you read it the more meaning there comes into it I find.

thelma said...

Do you know what makes me mad, is the destruction of mushrooms by the odd walker, who obviously think that all mushrooms are a danger. Throwing rubbish out of car windows is a nuisance and can hardly be policed, but have you not noticed that the odd apple thrown out of a car has produced apple trees along some of the long distance roads....

The Weaver of Grass said...

We have one or two apple trees around which have grown from pipsThelma - some more tasty than others I must say.