Gary has been back with his tractor. He’s mowed the paths that run around our eight acres of Norfolk marsh. Done a great job.
It makes an extraordinary difference to the place. The idea is that the marsh runs wild, so that marsh harriers can hunt over and deer can lie up in the thickets — but the paths matter, and not just because they make the walking easier in the relentless growth of June.
The paths transmit a subtle message to any human who comes here. Eddie and I walked, took a seat, watched the swifts, listened to the herons in the heronry and heard a reed warbler strike up. The message from the path was one of welcome. Like the deer and the rest, we have a place here. The path tells us we’re at home.
Like nature reserves run on a somewhat bigger scale, our few acres are for humans as well as wildlife. Deer can live here and we can enjoy their living. The place is an interface between wild and tame. So Eddie and I sat and talked and listened and drank our drinks and were not intruders.
I have often recommended a similar approach to people who think about, say, turning their lawn into a wildflower meadow, but fear it would feel all wrong. Just look a mess. As if nobody cared. Mow a nice welcoming path through the flowers, I say. Make a sitting-place. Now you can enjoy the place for what it is, because the whole thing looks — and crucially feels — as if it had been done on purpose.
The places where people and wild nature co-exist have a great value. But it’s not exactly a No Man’s Land. The opposite, if anything. If we are to have a wartime metaphor, let’s think of it as the Christmas Truce, when opposing soldiers laid down their weapons and shockingly chose to fraternise.
Eddie and I walked back. A deer, startled, rose from his resting place and cantered away from us, easily and confidently He too was enjoying the renewed path.
Wild June 1 (Eddie’s first blog with corrections)
Wild June2 Eddie’s new blog