Having worked in agriculture, I struggle to understand those landowners and/or farmers who plant a crop, and then force people to tread all over it, willy-nilly: damaging the young seedlings; flattening the ground; and, ultimately, reducing the yield. Try walking up to Tysoe Windmill, at the moment, and play a jolly game of ‘spot the path’ on your ascent. (Fun for the whole family!)
If you’re like me – badly disabled – you may be tempted to take the route of least resistance: looking for a gap in the next hedge, and heading for it as straight as the crow flies (although not today: the northerly wind was buffeting them like a mainsail rounding the Orkneys…); crossing your fingers that a gate or stile lurks there. However, if you’re really like me, and have innate, well-developed sensitivities about these things, you will try and follow the tractor’s elephantine depressions in the soil, tiptoeing gingerly between the green sprouts, and trying to minimize the spoil.
That such a strategy led me to encounter the stiffened, stripped corpse of a young badger seems strangely apposite. If it had been trapped, I suppose it would have been removed. However, rendered paranoid by the deterrence of erased trails – and a pair of rusty spikes seemingly designed to carry trespassers’ severed clotpoles… – I wondered if this too was a warding-off, even a poisoning? The rigid death-pose looked highly unnatural; and I can only pray that the resultant scavengers were more fortunate, if so.
Legally, paths have to be reinstated within a fortnight of ploughing and planting – but, of course, some (I feel I must be allowed to call them) capitalist bastards prefer you not to access their land at all: and will therefore string barbed or electrified wires across defined rights-of-way. Anarchist that I am, I am more than happy to smash these illegal (and anti-social, of course) blockages with my handy walking stick: until I can pass without fear of major bodily harm (and the subsequent Bard-invoked lawsuit).
Such routes have either been hard-fought-for; or have existed as byways for many centuries. Why should the greed of a few spiteful individuals ruin – as they did today – my enjoyment of fresh air and public access: especially when I know these are effective treatments for both my chronic pain, as well as my PTSD-originated depression? (I therefore returned home more miserable than when I had set off… – my many rude mutterings causing the local, wind‑hovering buzzards to mew in dismay; the chattering chaffinches to blush; and the truculent rooks to welcome me with open wings….)
What a contrast, though, from yesterday! Not only the weather: but every footpath I traversed between Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House was clearly marked, and well-maintained. You feel welcomed (and even appreciated); and you therefore relax (despite, in my case – after a long, enforced bout of rest – setting too high a target; and not doing myself any physical favours – hence the re-stretching of limbs, today…).
This was strong, sweet medicine, which required no sugar to swallow: especially as the wildlife also seemed happy in the surprising warmth. (My fleece stayed on for only a few hundred yards; and even a thin, technical T-shirt felt too much! Today, a thick, hooded fleece and a long-sleeved thermal vest were no protection from the harsh wind… – although it did help push me up the hill…!)