As lockdown restrictions finally begin to properly ease - hopefully for good this time - there will be some people dreading the thunder of a million feet heading towards the Lake District. This is understandable, last year there were some dreadful scenes of people disrespecting the landscape, leaving litter, wrecking trees, parking inconsiderately and, sadly, leaving gates open that resulted in the deaths of livestock. Hopefully things will be better this year but, if they're not, please don't collectively blame 'the townie'.
I was raised a townie. I had no control over where I was born and raised and, as soon as I was able to, I escaped to greener pastures, but it was drilled into me at a very early age to respect the countryside. (For anyone who knows the West Mids, Walsall Arboretum was our nearest decent sized area of greenery, trips to Sutton Park were a *massive* treat and Cannock Chase was like taking a trip abroad!)
Closer to home we'd play in the rough strip of ground behind the house, making dens and swings and eating enough blackberries to make us sick. Although we promised that we would never to go further than the end of the road, clandestine trips to Reedswood were the highlight of many a summer - untethered by phone calls demanding to know our whereabouts, or trackers to show where we were at all times, we explored and adventured far beyond where we were supposed to.
We may have wandered beyond our boundaries, but we never left litter or caused any permanent damage - although there were no mobile phones, or CCTV, we all knew that our mums had eyes everywhere and would somehow know if we'd left an empty crisp packet in one of our dens.
|Me, somewhere in Wales, circa 1977|
I was lucky enough to holiday in Wales regularly, and that always included a daily walk somewhere. I was taught how to dress properly and wear the right shoes and I was expected to observe 'The Countryside Code' at all times (as well as being sure to 'Keep Britain Tidy')
Because I grew up far away from the countryside, to me it is still a rare and beautiful thing and I still get excited every time I see lambs, or calfs, or birds, or the sea, or a million other things that I never saw regularly as a kid. I am keen to protect it, plant the right flowers and bushes to encourage bees and butterflies and try to keep my 'footprint' as small as possible.
Being controversial, in my experience, sometimes it's the people who grew up with all of that around them that take it for granted. We live in a conservation zone and have neighbours who have lived in the area all their life, but they have ripped up every flowering plant and concreted over their entire garden, turning it into a natural desert. Every leaf is swept the moment it touches the floor and jet washing of the paved backyard is a monthly event. A very few, select, green things are allowed, but they are strictly confined to colour co-ordinated tubs. On the brightside it's inspired me to go a little bit 'wild flower crazy' to try and compensate for their concrete wasteland.
The point is that it's never as straight forward as blaming one type of person or another, that simply causes division where there doesn't need to be any. We need to focus on doing more to educate everyone about what, I absoultely agree, should be basic common sense, such as taking your litter home, closing gates behind you and not parking like a wazzock.
I don't have all the answers to the big questions, but I do know that there are amazing groups like the Lakes Plastic Collective who are doing fantastic work to keep the region looking beautiful - check out their Facebook page here and support them if you can - we can achieve a lot more by working together than we can by creating more division. (You can also find them on Twitter here and Instagram here)
We don't cover the blog in adverts and rely on a steady sale of our books to fund the site. You can find them all here - please feel free to have a browse. Thank you.