Monday, 16 September 2013

A True Story of Nature’s Triumph over Nature Haters

Blackbird Singing


A True Story of Nature’s Triumph over Nature Haters


This is the story of how I created a habitat for wildlife, and how the neighbours tried to destroy it.

I grew up in a country village, in a large house, with extensive gardens and an orchard, bordering on fields. There were many trees and lots of s-p-a-c-e. The dominant colour was green, and the usual background music was bird song.

It was a shock adjusting to life in the concrete jungle when I moved to a city cottage. The garden was devoid of all life. It was a stony desert where no plants grew, and no birds sang. The stark chicken wire fence that divided the lots offered no privacy and begged for flowers to adorn it.

I quickly began to dig, rake, sow and plant trees, bushes, herbs and flowers. I brought home a car load of horse manure from the stables where I worked, and spread it around. Soon the wasteland was transformed to a paradise. It was a delight to be surrounded by the beauty of flowers, to inhale the aromas of herbs, to eat fresh organic vegetables, to see birds flitting among sun dappled branches, and to hear the blackbird's evening song. It reminded me of home and made city living more bearable.

Birds nested in the trees, including blackbirds, great tits, and a robin and wren. If you look closely, you can see a wood pigeon:


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The old couple next door grew roses and beans. They were particularly proud of a house martin's nest in the eves of their house. Every year the chicks could be heard chirping as they popped their heads over the edge of the nest. But when the old couple died their son had the front garden concreted, and the house martins ceased to return, and their cheerful chirping was never heard again.

The old couple's son married and produced noisy children, who grew bigger and noisier. This new family hated plants, birds and anything to do with nature. The parents taught their children to be afraid of insects and spiders, and whenever the children saw a little creature in their garden they screamed, and killed it.

These nature hating neighbours often criticised the vigorous growth of my trees, which began to overhang their neglected rear garden. They felled all the trees in their garden, including a Lelandi, killing two woodpigeon chicks in the process.

Next, the neighbours removed the wire fence, promising to put up a new, much higher, wooden fence. They also promised that none of my plants or trees would be harmed. After they had taken down the old fence and dumped it in a skip, they suddenly announced that my big birch tree would have to be felled because the trunk had grown over the boundary, thus making a straight fence impossible.

The neighbours refused to consider a curved fence, or a fence that incorporated the tree trunk. I pointed out that the local wildlife depended on the tree - the felling of it would destroy the birds. They said they would report me to the local authority for failing to keep my trees under control.

Here is the offending tree, and as you can see, it was a beauty. It was a natural habitat for wildlife. This shot was taken early in the year so it did not yet have its full flourish of foliage:


Big Tree photo 7b3d833b-2203-462d-b2c2-cd982f6b0340.jpg


A council official visited the neighbours and inspected the tree. He said that the tree trunk had only spread into their garden by a few inches, and that it was not reasonable to fell the tree because of this. The woman then lost her temper, jabbed her finger at him, and shouted: "I am not one of your ecological friendly people! I'm not losing any land! That tree must go!" The surveyor then beat a hasty retreat and never returned.

Meanwhile, builders had begun the process of killing everything that lived in the neighbours’ garden in preparation for the installation of cement and concrete to prevent further green growth. Thsi snippet shows the destruction underway:



Then the neighbour unexpectedly called to see me and asked if we could talk. She said she had been advised by the council to take legal action against me, but she would prefer to find a more amicable way of dealing with "the problem". Not wishing to be dragged through the courts and end up with costs to pay, I suggested that she obtained some estimates from tree surgeons, hoping that she might compare that to the likely cost of legal proceedings. She agreed.

In the meantime, there was no fence between our two gardens, and the neighbours refused to replace the fence until the lovely tree was felled. They referred to me as "the problem" preventing their new fence from going up. The builder's labourer snapped at me about the tree and told the neighbour’s young boy to go and get an air rifle and shoot my cats!

Next, the neighbours also insisted that that my entire hedge must moved to make way for a concrete base for the new fence. This entailed the destruction of a rose bush, two blackcurrant bushes, two rosemary bushes, two lavender buses, and part of my herb garden.

Here you can see a sage bush in the foreground; behind that, the remains of my blackcurrant bushes, and the gap where my herbal hedge had been; and the builders’ labourer thinking: “Darn nuisance plants!”


Builders 590 photo edf6878e-86e2-45eb-b753-fce609228e16.jpg


I asked the council why there were no laws against gratuitous tree felling and garden paving. The effect on our climate, wildlife and environment is criminal and suicidal. Didn’t they realise that such destruction is the cause of so much flooding? I could get no answer to these questions from anyone.

Later I discovered that the neighbours had lied about being advised to take legal action. The council official had advised them NOT to take legal action, and pointed out that if they harmed the tree, I could sue them! But I had neither the means nor the wish to engage in legal battles that might drag on for years. I ended up having to consent to the felling of the tree, in order to keep the peace, so that the high fence could be erected, my garden could be replanted and the wildlife could be free from continual harassment by rednecks.

The up side of this story is that some trees are still standing, the birds are still singing, nesting and flitting in and out of the branches, I still catch a glimpse of the squirrels running across roofs and tree tops, and quite often there are young foxes cavorting on the grass.

If you look closely you can see a squirrel here:


Squirrel 590 photo adb44f09-5882-4f14-bd41-2b683ab0171c.jpg


One year later, minus one big tree, plus one high fence, the garden began to return to normal:


Garden July 590 photo 3de0820a-216b-4384-b1ea-7d9e9e736f4b.jpg


And so did I:


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