Saturday, 16 May 2009

Mary's Towpath Eco-Verses

Here’s hopeful follow-up to my last piece on springtime massacres. Last Sunday FoCM Secretary, Richard Gardner and I went on a 10 mile sponsored walk for Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The walk was along part of the Sandstone Trail near Beeston.
At one point on our walk we noted that all of the Cow Parsley beside the Trail had been pointlessly sprayed with herbicide and this started a discussion on the, all too prevalent, ‘brutalist’ approach to landscape management. One of our fellow walkers, a lady named Mary Thorp, told me that, a few years ago she was distressed to see that the plant life along the towpath of her favourite canal-side walk, by the Shropshire Canal, near Tarporley, was regularly being cut down in the spring, before any of the plants had a chance to flower. Her novel approach to this problem was to write a poem about it and send it to her local paper, the Chester Chronicle – who published it. This is Mary’s poem:

Canal Towpath Plants

I walk on the towpath almost each day
Enjoying the plants in their seasons
Like Brian Bailey, this poem’s to say
Don’t mow them down without reasons

There’s fleabane and hawkweed near Wharton’s Lock,
Butterbur, meadowsweet too,
Monkey flower, balsam, coltsfoot and dock
Also Iris to name but a few

Where mowers don’t go, from bridge one-one-three west,
There are vetches and cowslips galore.
But due to your cutting down much of the rest
Many flowers are blooming no more.

For most of the towpath is 4 metres wide,
To walk on you need less than one.
Let vegetation grow free either side,
It’s less work when all’s said and done.

The flowers to flourish must first set their seed.
They can’t reproduce if they’re mown.
Allow them that little more time that they need
To germinate seed that is sown.

The waterfowl also like banks that are high,
The mallard, the moorhens and coot.
Whether we cycle, we boat, fish or fly.
You can help in our leisure pursuit.

And Mary’s poem seems to have worked. She tells me that that they now only mow one mower width of towpath and leave the rest wild. So, well done Mary! Perhaps we need more such ‘eco-verses’ to persuade all of the various ‘licensed eco-vandals’ not to massacre wildlife in the spring.
The picture at the top of the page shows a glorious population of Water Violets (Hottonia palustris) growing in a ditch managed by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. If only other organisations were so careful about looking after and valuing the natural environment.

Dave Bishop, May 2009

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