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User Icon     Posted 6 months ago     by Jim Hook     

The blight of the countryside

Take a walk through pretty much any city in the UK and you will find rubbish strewn anywhere and everywhere. Equally disappointing to see, or step in, will be dog faeces where irresponsible owners think its perfectly fine for Fido to curl one out in a public place and then walk off without a care in the world leaving it there like a land mine for a poor unsuspecting passerby to detonate onto the sole of their shoe.

Our countryside saw a decline in use pre-COVID with the UK's towns and cities accounting for over 80% of the population with the rural habitations in a firm second place with less than 20%. Whilst the city folk have always liked to make a run for the hills during holidays they would generally do so to national parks or locations well serviced by mod cons such as cafes and restaurants. The truly rural landscape was pretty safe. COVID changed that, and not necessarily for the better. Don't get me wrong, the countryside is open for all, and rightly so. The network of public footpaths in England, giving access to the countryside to all, and the right to roam in Scotland giving even more access to all land, means that the countryside can be enjoyed by everyone (Northern Ireland is unfortunately well behind in these respects with very little access to anything other than public land). Lockdown has seen a surge in the number of people looking to exercise these rights. Lay-bys that used to be empty are now full with walker's cars whilst they explore the wonders around them. Runners, and the off-road mountain bikers, have also dared farther from their normal venues. I applaud the sentiment of all, except where it is abundantly clear that a number of the new converts have applied their regard to rubbish in the cities to their new rural surroundings.

How can any right minded person think it's ok to leave any form of litter to line the pathways, hedges, fields, or rivers? It wouldn't surprise me if a number of these new adventurers weren't out protesting as part of extinction rebellion not so long ago. They felt it was ok to leave London strewn with Starbucks cups and MacDonalds wrappers so hey, why not leave the Perrier water bottle on the ground where they had a picnic, it is empty after all and surely someone will come around, once they have left, to clear their crap away. Likewise, it's great to see city bound dogs get the chance to exercise their legs. Chasing the sheep or cattle is cute as its only really a game and they are all having fun. After his exercise Fido might need to take a dump on the footpath but its biodegradable so no need to feel bad for leaving it where it lies. Or, the other one that I simply can't fathom is when it's bagged on a doggy bag and then left on the footpath or used to decorate a tree like a Christmas bauble.

Now, I do understand that it's highly unlikely that these new converts to the countryside have gone so far that they are going to read anything on this website, as hunting is possibly a step too far in their return to a more natural way of life. Therefore, it's up to those of us who do understand that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable to do something about it. Unfortunately that means we need to challenge folk we see conducting any of these crimes, as crimes they are. If a polite reminder doesn't work then walk away and report them to the council or police. Most will have had to drive to where they are now engaged in their activities so if its possible take their registration number to help the council or police identify them. I accept that most authorities will prefer not to get involved but unless incidents are reported and then followed up for an update they won't feel the need. If we let it slide then we only have ourselves to blame.

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