28 September 2017

I Spy

Leaf Litter

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus )

I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with A......

Yes, Autumn is gently slipping in the back door, sneaking up on the last days of summer.  Greens are fading into yellows,

English Oak (Quercus robur)

And into the vibrant colours of shorter, cooler days. As Andrew Smith (Forestry Commission Director at Westonbirt Arboretum) explains: once the tree shuts down as it prepares for winter, the chlorophyll breaks down and other coloured chemicals take over. Carotene (which give carrots their colour), anthocyanin’s and tannins give the instantly recognisable colours of autumn, making leaves appear yellow, red, and gold....

Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)


'Shrooms appear, tempting omelettes in spacious kitchens......

Parasol (Macrolepiota procera)

And families of birds cluster the hedges by farms, the young about to go their own ways, the parents about to face another winter....

Female House Sparrow (Passer domesticus )

And by the roadside, on this particularly fine day, when walking back from Lemsford to Piggotshill, enjoying the gentle Chiltern scenery, the quiet lanes and byways....  by the roadside, within sight of John Bunyan's chimney, between Brocket Hall and Symondshyde Great Wood, I come across this....

At first I wonder whether it isn't a late arising homeless one, snuggled on the verge.  But clearly this is not a living thing, it's the debris of some lazy, anti-social materialist who cares nothing for the environment or for the consequences of their actions (will it just stay there, or will the public purse take money from our pockets to find someone to clear it up?)  

It could be worse.  At least this doesn't block the entire lane, as some fly tippers are wont to do round here.  At least it is wrapped!  Not just a vile agglomeration of shit from some bathroom refurb or garage clearance.

But now my sensibility is awakened, and instead of admiring the beauties around me, I am drawn to the detritus of my fellows.  Here some students have pitched camp and burned their practice papers, leaving forensic evidence of their crime....  though no one will hunt them down.

And here the supermarket alkies have crushed their waste as if it will then just melt into the natural surroundings, devoured by microbes and fungi as leaf litter.....

And, as I near my own untidy destination, I note this little message in the undergrowth.  Why, oh why, do people think that having bagged up their pooch's crap it then becomes acceptable to fling it, or hang it, or leave it somewhere for the delectation of every other passer-by?  What is the point?  Even if the bag is bio-degradable, surely even if you are a bone-idle thoughtless dick-head it would be better just to nudge your doggie's excreta into the long grass without first wrapping it in plastic to draw attention to it?

The world is too much with us.  But dull is he of soul who can pass by a thing of beauty (which probably could be a joy forever) without preferring it in its natural state to that of one desecrated by our collective foulness?

It's not a simple thing.  When I was a child (and I spake as a child) I knew there was a £5 fine for littering, and £5 was a huge amount back then (and you were told not to spit on the lower deck of buses.... if I remember rightly?)  But now, most likely, it won't be cost-efficient to administer a £5 fine (see below).  In the last century (is it that long ago?) a dog needed a licence to shit.  Now it just needs a plastic bag and everything is OK.  

'Nuff said.

It was a lovely day.

A lovely walk.


By the way: Leaving litter is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This was extended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 under section 18. It carries a maximum penalty of £2500 upon conviction. However, many local authorities issue fixed penalty notices under section 88 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.....  

Yeah, well.....

Incidentally, for intense Autumn colour, see:


  1. Richard, I couldn't agree more , if you ever get a minute have you thought of running for MP!

  2. I agree with your sentiments and horror; I wonder if this is another artefact of the 'Age of Austerity' in which we are all together. Councils have had their funding cut and don't now collect all waste from all households for free. What are we to do? Just a detail tho' - was it permissible to spit on the lower deck?
    Simon the Solipsist

  3. Thanks, both. Re spitting on decks, the comment above should now ask 'was it permissible to spit on the upper deck?' as I changed the deck. And, if I remember rightly, it probably was, as we were allowed to smoke there too.... Perhaps somethings have improved?

  4. So right, but not just into the long grass please. Get it in firmly in touch with soil microbes and it will be gone without trace in two weeks. The leaf litter under a hedge is ideal, so with any luck a few months of wind, freeze/thaw and sunshine will degrade the unfathomable and allow the contents eventually to find there own way to a suitable disposal point.

    Re the general principle, I usually find that litter louts provide a bag so it is quite easy to do some tidying and leave things better than you found them. On one occasion, I met a young mother pushing a buggy with two kids and still finding the energy to gather other peoples' dross. I said I didn't realise others bothered, and she said "Don't worry, there is plenty for everyone".

    On another occasion, I was on a mountain top (I exaggerate to support the pretense that I do adventures like yours) in Scotland and found sandwich wrappers, pringles tubes and various drinks containers. Unusually it took a bit of searching to find the bag, but there it was under a cover of carefully arranged bark from a Scots Pine, together with a dustpan and brush. Outstanding!