THE MONDAY MOAN – A once a week spot for us to moan about the stuff that perhaps we should all be moaning about that little bit more…
A good few years back I was in the beginnings of a relationship with an environmentalist who was living near Crickhowell and working on nature surveys. We had a few good weeks and then one night we were chatting about land and access and we found that there was a problem. I think she came from a wealthy background and her family owned lots of land and perhaps some hills. I stated that all upland Britain should be open to walkers (I actually believe that all land ought to be open to walkers) and very surprisingly to me, she said no, if you own a hill or mountain you ought to be able to restrict or stop access to your private wild country.
That was it, our relationship could go no further, we were diametrically opposed to each other.
HOW MUCH LAND IS THERE?
A good few years back an aerial survey of the UK was undertaken and when all of the high quality images were stitched together and laid out on the floor as a giant map it was found that much of the country was, in fact, that. It was mostly countryside.
For me this was not to be celebrated. This was a signpost directing me to the conclusion that we have all been lied to. That there is absolutely NO shortage of land in the UK but that the land that there is is in a small group of privileged landowners hands and that they want it for themselves.
A well considered read on this very topic is – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-Owns-England-Green-Pleasant-ebook/dp/B07J2DDN7K/ref=sr_1_1 – and the secrecy and hidden landowners and the stability of landownership through the centuries ought to be highly newsworthy. You can visit the website here – https://whoownsengland.org
FARMERS ARE CARETAKERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT?
Have you ever walked through an actual working farm? I’m sure that most of us have… With discarded vehicles leaking fuel and oil, with slurry pools and with plastics and chemicals blowing in the wind… But that’s just housekeeping…
It’s the farming practices that prove that they are not caretakers of the environment. The environment ought to be rich and diverse. In the UK this is mainly broadleaf woodland with it’s rich soils, fungi, birds, wild animals such as boar and deer. But no, the caretakers prefer what I see as desert, a monoculture of grass or of non native tree species in plantations. These land use types generate maximum income for them. They are and have always been raping the countryside and with absolute impunity.
And we’ve been told that’s how it is, that’s what we need to do for food security, for our national interests. Total rubbish. That suits the interests of a few, and, very shortsightedly, only in the short term.
For more information on how things in the countryside could be please read this – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/25/rewilding-britains-rainforest-planting-trees – a Monbiot piece that has lot’s of links out to further reading and info.
WHO PAYS FOR THE RAPE?
But worse still, the public give actual cash to these ‘criminals’ in the form of grants and subsidies. I’ve long been of the opinion that these payments only exist because the elites, the landed gentry and the politicians and career civil servants, the people deciding on the nature of funding land ownership, it’s they and their friends that own the land and so it is they and their friends that benefit.
Did you know that the EU land subsidy, which prior to Brexit was underwritten by the UK Government and so continues, pays landowners for owning fields… Smallholdings no but larger estates yes… So, if you own something sizeable that looks as though it could be used for growing crops or for grazing sheep, you get some not inconsiderable money. Every year! And you don’t have to farm it to get the money. Vast tracts of virgin forest in new EU countries such as Romania are being clear felled so that the land ‘looks like’ farm land and so that the owners can receive these idiotic payments.
And did you know that 20 years ago farmers across the UK we encouraged and paid to take out hedges and today they are being encouraged and paid to put them back in… Where now is the sense in that? It looks like a money laundering scam from where I sit. At best it is gross incompetence but we’ll have to leave government wasting of taxpayers money to another moan I think…
WE WENT FOR A RAMBLE
It was nearing three weeks into the lockdown and we went for a walk, from Canton and out to the West of Cardiff, exploring some parts of the countryside that had it not been for the virus we would likely never have visited. And we found this
Totally illegal. Landowners will be rubbing their hands together at this opportunity to intimidate. Rather than coming together as a community and making land easier to access and use at this time of crisis the landowners it would seem would have us crammed into the city parks.
And then we walked across a field which was to be the lunch spot. There was a muck spreader spreading muck over the public right of way, a deliberate act of desecration of a meadow and an act that was not usual practice and is possibly illegal… We chatted over the fence with a resident who’s garden backed onto the field and he was as angry as we were and he apologised for the poor behaviour of his land owning neighbour. He stated that the owner was muck spreading over a public right of way with the sole intention of dissuading people from walking on his land. Suffice to say we had lunch elsewhere.
At this time of crisis these landowners are not rallying around and in the national interest opening up, where safe, the countryside that surrounds us. But rather they seem to see this crisis as an opportunity to further restrict access to the green spaces that ethically we all have rights to.
The government and it’s agencies, the NT and similar charities, the farmers and the great estate owners, they do not have the nations land interests at heart. They do not caretake land for us. They take from it. We ought to, therefore, be taking it back…