Dawn Chorus at Sennicotts during lock down

A huge amount of excellent comment has been made about the pros and cons of the Coronavirus lock down. I don’t think at this time I have anything particularly new to say other than to add my thanks to the NHS staff in particular.

It is humbling to be a human at this time. I am personally enjoying the freedom which comes from this part of the experience.

In the natural world prey uses sight, sound and smell to detect the presence of the predator. I have always wondered how much of an advantage the predator is given by the addition of near constant background noise generated by our modern life. Human’s noise becoming a predator’s sound camouflage and putting prey at a disadvantage.

What will the natural world make of the humans putting life and much of their noise on hold?

To give a little insight into the audio of the natural world when the humans are taking a break here is the dawn chorus at 05:40 this morning at Sennicotts.

05:40. 5th April 2020. Dawn Chorus during UK Coronavirus Lock Down

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The Marmite Fence

In 2019 the fence alongside the B2178, opposite Oakwood, was replaced. The previous wooden post and barbed wire fence had reached the end of its life having suffered the effects of the elements, vehicle crashes, deer strikes and falling timber.

The replacement fencing is a stock-proof 1.2m X-fence galvanised product supported by the Clipex post and strainer system.

The new fence divides opinion … which is an issue as it was chosen to last

This fencing system had been tested in a short run for cost of installation, durability, effectivness and of course aesthetic properties.

As with any cap-ex decision we were wanting to satisfy a number of criteria to the greatest level of return. Aesthetic being only one weighted criteria. Other criteria included:

  • Durability of materials to the ravages of the english climate
  • Flexibility and speed of installation
  • Repairability
  • Strength and safety
  • Ability to contain stock of all sizes, from lambs to cattle
  • Safety – design to prevent lambs getting heads stuck
  • Effectiveness at reducing deer migrating across B2178 and causing accidents

It turns out this fence evokes quite different reactions from users of the B2178. Much like marmite the feedback has been starkly opposing. With responses ranging from it being used as a landmark (“where that smart fence is”) to “I don’t like it, why?”

Understandably these responses focus primarily on the aesthetic, with a trend for those in favour to see the aesthetic in a positive light when there is a natural appreciation of the function.

Like all things, the aesthetic will undoubtedly change over time through weathering and vegetation growth. Perhaps all that will be left to appreciate then is the function, less dead deer, and far fewer car parts being recovered from the field.

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Health, Safety and Exhilaration

There exists a certain gulf, or maybe a canyon, between the two lands of health and safety on the one side and exhilaration on the other. Between lies a certain mystery at how the two might be joined. Surely it is not necessary for these two concepts to live in total isolation. Yet attempts to weave any commonality of experience or objective (and never methodology) seems futile.

I have recently spent many hours working at height in a 51′ cherry picker. An experience well outside my comfort zone. With the added ingredients of a chainsaw, Silky saw, and several tonnes of timber there was plenty which could go seriously wrong. The nature of the work means if you operate correctly the job gets done but if you make a mistake or miscalculate a risk someone gets injured or something gets badly broken.

Faced with these ingredients and potential outcomes the reality is we want to push through the fear while managing the risk. Yet it sometimes feels as if modern health and safety actually wants us to avoid any fear by removing all risk.

The problem is that bit of us that wants to experience the other side of that fear. In my case to see the job done and done well.

I have always struggled to articulate how the person facing the fear and taking the risk can actually be rewarded by taking responsibility for both. I think the resentment comes when we are told we are not allowed to take the responsibility ourselves and that instead we have to submit to someone else’s responsibility and processes to manage our own (and others’) safety.

I have just read John Muir’s description of wanting to get to a viewpoint where he can see over the edge of a waterfall – from within the rushing water as it approaches the edge!

A copy of this at the start of every Health & Safety Manual under the title of HSE (where HSE stands for Health Safety and Exhilaration instead of Health & Safety Executive) would ensure the whole subject is put in appropriate perspective.

I took off my shoes and stockings and worked my way cautiously down alongside the rushing flood keeping my feet and hands pressed firmly on the polished rock. The booming, roaring water, rushing past close to my head, was very exciting….

At length, after careful scrutiny of the surface, I found an irregular edge of a flake of the rock some distance back from the margin of the torrent. If I was to get down to the brink at all that rough edge, which might offer slight finger-holds, was the only way. But the slope beside it look dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture father, but did nevertheless…

I crept down safely to the little ledge, got my heels well planted on it, then shuffled in a horizontal direction 20 or 30 feet until close to the out plunging current, which, by the time it had descended this far, was already white. Here I obtained a perfectly free view down into the heart of the snowy, chanting throng of comet-like streamers, into which the body of the fall soon separates.

While perched on that narrow niche I was not distinctly conscious of danger. The tremendous grandeur of the fall in form and sound and motion, acting at close range, smothered the sense of fear, and in such places one’s body takes keen care for safety on its own account.

My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir 1911

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John Muir quote

“Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”

13th June 1869, My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir

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Your past doesn’t need to define your future

Stolen cash tin becomes new life’s sanctuary.

Typical of nature to redeem the jettisoned spoils of human brokenness.

A cash tin, still with key, is thrown from a passing car but has now been turned into a safe-haven for new life.

Our relationship with nature looks very one-way sometimes.

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