Today the skies over St Andrews are overcast once more, but I am determined to get out on the bike at least for a couple of hours, withdrawal symptoms, are setting in.
If you have not been excited about all the twists and turns at the Olympicts, then you will possibly have had your television switched off, really, that is all there is on the box apart from game shows and re-runs of re-runs.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Olympics, It has become far too political, and the cost to a country, some of these training camps for athletes cost millions to run, just to get that coveted gold medal. When you see, a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk, you have to ask yourself is it good value for money?
well, I did sit down and compose a letter to my landlord, (see below), I am thinking of doing some study into the subject and composing a general letter and sending it out to all Councils in Scotland, You never know, some may take up the challenge.
Viewpoint HQ 4 S Oswald Rd, Edinburgh EH9 2HG
I grew up in a different world from the one we know today. My parents were still being asked to “Dig for Victory” – whilst I was playing in muddy puddles. And just because the war ended, gardening for many continued, for we still had rationing and no supermarkets. As the council house building programme took off the houses were designed, with large drying greens, (no automatic washing machines then) and room to grow vegetables. Many towns and villages still retained their allotments. At school, we were taught gardening, how to remove the seeds from tomatoes and dry them between sheets of blotting paper before planting. Councils still employed gardeners, had their own nurseries and planted out and maintained parks and gardens within the towns and cities.
I had my own allotment for 10 years and it had been my intention, on my retirement, to move to France and buy a piece of land that lay alongside a canal. I would live on board my 30-foot folk boat and work the land into a market garden and sell the product to people moving up and down the canal and at the local markets, mostly held every week in France. Sadly life got in my way.
Now the gardens at City Park are petty bland, we have tried to grow and plant out some flowers to brighten the place up a bit, but when you have an over zealous use of leaf blowers, and the spraying of weed killer along the borders and paths t
hat will inevitably be blown by the wind over the garden, inhibiting any possibility of good growing conditions for newly planted seedlings.
Still, there is one part of the garden that could be changed, (or at least you could) change for the better.
In 2014 Peterborough Council initiated a scheme in which several areas of the park were to be left a windflower meadow, to be cut once per year, and some other areas were designated for cutting three times per year. They found that this gave them an annual saving of £24,000 in deduced labour and petrol, (and helped to save the planet). The e-mails flooded in as did ‘Letters to the Editor’ in the local press, people do not like change. I’m with Peterborough Council on this one, and I wish others would follow suit.
You see, we humans, in general, do not like change. For many people, the grass is supposed to be short, anything other is untidy, and the result of laziness or council cutbacks. In fact, in many cities in the US, lawns have to be mown regularly. Local ordinances dictate a maximum lawn height, and low betide the delinquent that thinks otherwise you will be fined.
There are three large patches of grass at City Park, they have not real value as (what we would normally call lawn). The strip along the front of the building is anything but beautiful, or useful.
The small strip in front of the communal boiler house is unsightly.
And the large square of grass out the rear of the building is, mostly moss and never used for anything – then you might argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
There is a wonderful little group of volunteers in Stirling (central Scotland), calling themselves ‘On The Verge’, who spend their weekends turning grass areas into wildflower meadows. They badger anyone that owns or manages any kind of amenity grasslands and persuade them to let the group create wildflower meadows and sow wildflower seeds. At the last count, there were fifty-two patches of wildflower dotted around Stirling, on roads verges, roundabouts, public parks, primary-school grounds and rugby club land.
Growing up in Scotland there was an abundance of wildflower meadows, in fact in The 1930s we had seven million acres of them in lowland Britain, now we have only two per cent of that amount. This vast loss of flower-rich habitat is one of the main drivers in the decline of diverse creatures from great yellow bumblebees to corncrakes, but there is now huge interest in restoring and recreating these meadows, and we can all help by creating mini-meadows in our gardens.
Grass has managed to survive for millions of years without our help. In a healthy garden there should be a diverse community of insects, millipedes, centipedes, slugs, worms, not to mention the countless microbes, living in the soil beneath the turf.
These soil insects are an important part of the food chain. Leatherjackets (Leatherjackets hatch into crane flies, daddy-long-legs), are one of the favourite foods of Starlings, a species that has undergone alarming declines in recent years. The population of Starling, has fallen by two-thirds since the mid-1970s – when it comes to lawns and their maintenance, less is definitely more.
I am not suggesting that all the grass at City Park is turned into a wildflower meadow, but a long strip or square is a start and if you occasionally mow around your meadow area it can actually look remarkably neat; the contrast between short and long grass makes the area look managed rather than abandoned. If you go to Falkland Palace you will see how this has been used to good effect.
If we are truly interested in saving the planet from global warming, and in trying to halt the loss of insects and microorganisms that ground-feeding birds depend on, then a good start would be in our own gardens. Stop the use of leaf blowers along the borders, washing away all the top soil and habitat for such insects. And stop the use of weedkillers.