Saturday 20 July 2019

Blood on my hands

Medders at Large

David Medcalf

This biodiversity business. These days, every right thinking person is expected to favour world peace, to work for an end to plastic wrapping, to cook free range chicken (or go vegan) and to campaign for, yes, biodiversity. Let your grass grow long is the message of our progressive times, so that the insects and the dandelions may multiply and prosper. Plant flowers or plant shrubs which are butterfly friendly and be sure to boycott those sugar-snap peas which come from Uganda - that's the ticket.

Write scandalised letters to Coillte instructing the forestry company to branch out (ahem) into broadleaved tree species rather than concentrating all their efforts on spruce. The time has come for action ahead of fine sentiment on the biodiversity front and I for one am 'on message' as the right-on phrase goes.

For starters, any excuse to hold off mowing the lawn is good enough for me and I prefer home-grown carrots to imported peas any day of the week. The ditches which border the fields of Medders Manor are already bursting with buddleia, a magnet for all those cute butterflies. I certainly agree that not all commercial woodland should be comprised of Sitka. So, comrades, let us all make biodiversity our goal. Let us save the Bengal tiger and the natterjack toad and the honey bee and the Ballyfatten apple. Let us live at peace with our wonderful environment…

'You are looking most thoughtful.' Hermione is very perceptive.

'I was just wondering whether to use exclamation marks.'

'Exclamation marks?'

'I am drawing up my personal biodiversity manifesto.'

'Your what?'

'My personal biodiversity manifesto - my PBM. Everybody should have one and I was just wondering whether or not mine will be decorated with exclamation marks. Maybe you can help. Which do you think looks better - 'Save the Corncrake' or 'Save the Corncrake!'?'

'They both look ridiculous. There hasn't been a corncrake on the Rolling Acres since your great-great-great-grandfather Isambard started steam-thrashing his oats and irrigating the orchard.'

'Fair comment but this really is a serious topic. We should all concern ourselves with the fate of our endangered predators and pollinators and plankton.'

'Indeed, though I fear this ecological zeal may have come too late to rescue your corncrakes.'

'Oh, let's be positive. It is like that song young Persephone sings - 'All God's creatures have a place in the choir'. We should be happy to share the world with rats and docks and Portuguese men 'o war. They each have their role.'

Actually, I have thought of one the Almighty's creations which would surely never be missed, one unloved and unlovable species which I am unashamedly labouring hard to eliminate. The Noxious Weeds Act may be more than 80 years old but those long gone legislators of the 1930s had an enlightened idea when they outlawed the thistle. We are paying the price for not stepping in with lethal force when we spotted a small outbreak of the thorny-leaved pest last year in a corner of the Far Field.

The unchallenged invaders broadcast their seed so that the limited incursion of 2018 is shaping up to become a complete takeover in 2019. Chemical conflict is now beyond the pale even as we count down the days before these insidious aliens break into flower, threatening to overwhelm not only the Far Field but all its neighbours too. Unarmed combat is the only option.

So it is that, when not drawing up my PBM, I find myself patrolling the affected section of our land. The first day, my hands were left in bloody ribbons, suffering a thousand cuts from thistly spines as I pulled out the noxious weeds one at the time. I have since acquired a pair of protective gloves to wage this war, having vowed to spend 30 minutes a day in the front line until victory is ours.

And as I extract thistle after thistle from the earth I sing: 'All God's creatures have a place in the choir - me eye!' With full exclamation mark.

Wicklow People