Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In praise of the dying

click photo to enlarge
"When a dead tree falls the woodpeckers share in its death", Malayan proverb

In the past fortnight I have read a couple of newspaper articles lamenting the increasing amount, and persistence, of litter in the UK. In the most recent piece three journalists visited three cities - Edinburgh, Manchester and London - to see if litter was as bad as the original author claimed. Interestingly they reported that they were fairly clean! But these examples notwithstanding, it is easy to find areas that are unkempt, with plastic bags being one of the main causes of pollution.

The Irish Republic recently banned plastic bags with great effect on the appearance of the country. The free-trade flag-wavers of the main UK political parties seem unable to do anything as radical or as environmentally-friendly as this. And yet nowadays they all claim green credentials! What puzzles me however, is how on the one hand we have a litter problem, and on the other we have obsessive tidier-uppers in the countryside. Farmers, it seems, can't wait to trim (or should I say smash) hedges into rectilinear regimentation, and many old trees are grubbed up before they can fall on someone's head precipitating a legal action. Returning to the UK from nearby continental countries one is immediately struck by the orderliness of the countryside. I appreciate that this appeals to many people. However I do sometimes feel that many of our self-styled guardians of the countryside are still too over-enthusiastic in their desire for order, at the expense of wildlife and landscape.

So, when I saw these two old trees near Skippool, Lancashire, hanging on to life despite the seasonal flooding of the field in which they grow, I thought "Hooray". I was glad for the visual interest they give to the spot, for the dinners that their rotting wood gives to insect and bird life, and I was pleased that they had been either overlooked or valued as part of the landscape. Their reflections and silhouettes against the cold morning light cried out for a photograph. I used a zoom lens at 142mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera on Aperture Priority (f8 at 1/500 second), ISO 100, with -0.7EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen