OPINION: I was just thinking... about fly-tipping and rural recycling

The Irish Moiled cow

The Irish Moiled cow - Credit: Archant


… fly tipping. The recent prosecution of a Whaddon woman coupled with an experience of my own have occupied the minute portion of my brain that hasn’t been otherwise diverted by my blusterings about the ridiculousness of the recent election results and the too many panto-writing deadlines that are looming.

I was walking the dog early one beautifully sunny and deserted morning through the North Hertfordshire countryside when I passed a gateway. The ground being wet from an overnight deluge of rain I had chosen to walk along a road. My very expensive walking boots, a present not an extravagance you understand, at a mere two years old have developed holes in their sides and now let the moisture in. It’s all very unsatisfactory given their price. Very comfortable boots but now very wet feet. But I digress. I should proceed.

But before I do, perhaps a little context might help. The gateway is set into a hedge. It is wide with the gate itself hanging open and great muddy tractor tyre ruts passing through it. Whilst ultimately the gate allows access to a field of autumn-sown wheat, a rural idyll it is not. For before the eye can lovingly caress the corn stalks waving, sea-like, in the gentle breezes there is the small detail of a manure-clamp to get past.

You know the thing. A farmer, knowing the value of the nutrient which passes through his cows’ bodies, collects up a winter’s supply of excess requirement from the bovine digestive tract and dumps it, nay slops it, onto a corner of a field surrounded by massive straw bales which act as retaining walls. Day after day such virtually liquid effluvia pours from the back of a trailer into the clamp collected from cows that are imprisoned for the winter months until such time as they are let onto the pasture for the summer where they can deposit their own gifts ‘en plein air’. During the summer the clamp festers, grows all kinds of bizarre and extraordinary flora, cooking gently in the heat of the sun until, post-harvest, it is ploughed into the ground to enrich the soil ready for the next year’s crop planting.

I do nothing but observe the routine year upon year. I wonder whether I should disapprove because of the incarceration of the unfortunate cattle for half of the year. Conversely, I wonder also whether I should support it because it is rural recycling of an almost industrial scale. I am, as you surely can tell, torn about what I should think.

Not so about fly-tipping. On this morning excursion I passed the gateway opening onto an oasis of bovine excrement and the sight of an unsightly conglomeration of unwanted artefacts in the gateway caused my dry feet to falter in their stride. A pile of rubbish. Household and obviously just dumped. Now I realise that the access was to an open sewer and thus the felon might have justified her or his actions because of it. But what on earth possessed someone to bag up a whole load of unwanted bits of household waste, jump into a car, drive to the gateway and then spend a few anxious minutes unloading the illicit material in fear of being caught red-handed mid-dump, as it were? Why go to such lengths? Especially when the local authority provide us with bins of varying hues to place our rubbish in. There wasn’t so much of it that it couldn’t easily have been disposed of in regulation fashion. I was, and remain, bewildered by the actions of some people.

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The next morning, after more rain and still without new boots, I passed the gateway again. Someone had cleared up the mess and presumably put it in the bin. Meanwhile the cesspit gently festered and the crows and magpies hopped around searching for edibles. The dog turned up his nose and trotted off towards a field where he knew there to be hares to chase.