conkwell woods

conkwell woods


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I went trespassing to gather somew wild garlic, and found a mess of landowner’s litter.

right at the top of the valley overlooking the dundas aqueduct, this tank, labelled toxic, was lying rusted on the ground. in a political climate that labels ramblers as wanton litterers, its time to look at the larger scale issue of litter, of fly-tipped waste and landowner scrap that lies in piles behind private fences

this barrel was lying at the base of the most magnificent mother tree beech, the largest that i have seen in the whole of conkwell woods. i come here as often as i can, to sit, and though not necessarily meditate, to listen the the natural world, and lets its sounds and sights calm me

but the woods are full of private signs, telling me not to be there, telling me that i’m not welcome. that sense of being on forbidden ground does not charge my walk with excitement, but floods my body with cortisol, stress and tension, the opposite of my reason for being there.

these woods were publicly accessible commons until the early 1800s, when the land was sold to the principle architect of the Dundas aqueduct, who then tried to enclose all the woods, and throw the commoners out. To their credit, the commoners resisted and a blurred kind of permissive access remains to this day. mountain bikers have build excellent trails in these woods and maintain them well, clearing litter etc. But still, deeper into these woods, the signs are everywhere, rather confusingly, telling you you’re not welcome. Why is some places and not others?

Because if you stray behind the signs, you will see that these woodlands are actually a dumping ground for industrial waste. Obviously theres the possibility this this waste has been fly-tipped, but it is still the owner’s responsibility to clean it up.

But much of this waste is far from any road. Very clearly, this is left by a landowner who hasn’t bothered to pick it up, because actually, it would be quite difficult. The metal is rusted, the plastic is tattered, this waste has been here a very long time, and yet, because a property owner has the right to treat the land they own pretty much how they please, they can get away with littering the countryside, as long as they own it. Because no one of the public is allowed here, no one of the public can defend the countryside from this sort of pollution. And so it stays.

There’s nothing i can do on my own about this message, so i trespass on, to forage from Conkwell Wood’s magnificent bounty of wild garlic. There is so much wild garlic on this valley that even in a car, driving through it, you can wind down the window and smell it.

perhaps if we were allowed to interact with nature in ways that we loved, for example foraging, if we were given the right to really care about the nature we live around, we would be willing to help protect it from pollution, even to the point of lending our time and labour to clearing the waste in Conkwell woods. People are more than willing to volunteer, and a community, communal effort to care for the woods would invest locals with a greater sense of belonging.

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