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Nature plays as the world warms

Friday 20 October 2006

Our rural affairs commentator John Sheard, full of rage at the latest Governmental insults to country folk, decided to take a natural rest cure on his allotment - and found that global warming has its compensations

THIS column came very close to being a raging rant at the sheer incompetence - nay, the cynical dismissal of all things rural - by the townies who run this once-sceptred land of ours. But I was so angry on Wednesday that I decided to vent my spleen on the thick brush which has engulfed the borders of my allotment.

The reasons for my anger were many. It was revealed that the Scotsman who wants to close down 4,000 rural post offices in England is a one-time militant trade union official (See News) as is, incidentally, the minister sending out troops to their deaths in the Middle East without proper equipment.

And it was revealed on the same day that the civil servant who was sacked for the cock-up at the Rural Payments Agency, which drove thousands of farmers to the brink of bankruptcy (See news too), is still paid his £120,000 a year salary months later whilst other civil servants work out his (no doubt generous) severance pay.

mallard duck
Mallards at Rylstone

Information like this drives me into an incandescent rage, but instead of picking a row with my dear innocent and baffled wife, I took myself off to my allotment where scrub and weeds on the periphery have been using this gorgeous Indian Summer to surround and threaten the veg patch itself like a gathering of Triffids bent on murder.

As I was swinging my sickle, I found myself forgetting the failures of the imbeciles in far off Westminster to become totally entranced in the wonders of nature as it takes advantage of what is still virtually summer and goes upon its business with gusto. I am talking the birds and the bees here.

It started with the mallards on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which runs alongside my plot. I was once deeply embarrassed when I wrote a piece asking where all the male mallards had gone. To my chagrin, a knowledgable reader wrote in to point out that, in the autumn and winter, male mallards lose their iridescent green head feathers and go all dowdy like their brown female mates - something no-one had ever told me before.

Well, dear reader, news hot from the press: Yorkshire Dales mallards are still touting their brilliant greens with November just over a week away. What's more, they're at it again, engaging in their characteristic head-nodding courtship routines. Hopefully, a chillier weekend might call a stop to these shenanigans before it gets too serious.

The bumble bees are at it, too, taking a last minute supper from my few remaining courgette flowers, which should have perished a month ago. My kidney beans are still flowering too, plants which drop stone dead at the very first breath of frost. And this is particularly good news for bumble bees, which notoriously die out in late summer, often overcome by parasites.

That evening, reading the paper, I saw that astonished nature lovers were reporting large numbers of red admiral butterflies still active in the South West. The South West? I was kept company by these lovely creatures all day on Wednesday, 200-plus miles further north and 600 feet up in the Pennines. Now if that is not a sight to warm the cockles, nothing is.

Now, I am not in denial over global warming, just the way we are going about tackling it

So now we get to the doom and gloom bit. All this is due to man-made global warming, says the many town-based "green" pressure groups who are constantly demanding billions in funds from the self-same imbeciles who, literally, haven't the nous to run a sub post office.

Yet it was also reported this week that human beings create as much carbon dioxide as cars and planes .. simply by breathing! So are we going to cull 20% of the population, our target for carbon emission reductions? That is approximately the rural population of this country: does New Labour secretly plan to wipe us all out by simple neglect?

Now I am not in denial over global warming, just the way we are going about tackling it. It is most probably a natural cycle exacerbated to some extent by human activity, a lot of which could be ameliorated by growing bio-fuels as I reported last week.

However, apart from having our lofts insulated, turning down the thermostat and switching off more lights, there is not a lot we humble country folk can do about it. So why not get out there and enjoy it whilst it lasts. It's certainly much more fun than listening to politicians!

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