OPINION: Norfolk writers have documented nature’s demise

Published:
5:00 p.m. March 6, 2022



Frisky February has certainly set a challenge for March, the month of plenty of weather, when it comes to blowing a stormy pass into the blooming beauties of spring.

Still, March can turn wicked, mocking dreams of another cricketing season, another summer, another tan to green with office envy.

It can create anticipation one day, with that sense of peaceful power in the world of nature waking up, and then conjure up sharp winds and sudden snowflakes from nowhere to remind us that winter has yet to come. disappeared on the promontories.

I remember how landing on a clump of snowdrops, violets, cowslips or cowslips in late 20th century Norfolk only served to underline how much we had lost. “Never go back!” they shout as you weave your way to the pastures of childhood, climb the ditches of yesterday in pursuit of the messengers of summer. But you continue to hope all the same, to still wonder.

Rosemary Tilbrook, writing in the EDP in March 1984, didn’t mince words after looking at her local lanes… “Today it is dangerous to be alive in the world of natural history. Dangerous to be a primrose. Dangerous to be a small living tree in a hedge. Nothing is certain for tomorrow

“No one would ever have believed it possible that in 50 years – the smallest trickle of evolutionary time – the inexhaustible wealth of fauna would have disappeared to such an extent, that an awesome responsibility would exist for the future of all that who remains alive on the earth today”.

At the same time, Ted Ellis, dean of local naturalists, warned that industrial pollution and urban effluents were slowly killing marine life in the North Sea… “The rivers of Europe are dumping garbage into the North Sea and cities Yarmouth and Cromer are pumping pollution into it, and large areas of the seabed are becoming barren. Modern detergents are ruining the Norfolk Broads. I suggested it might happen, but it took 15 years before anyone even noticed it. And they’ve spent millions since trying to fix it.

The following March brought a cry from the heart of Whissonsett as the cold winds of change prompted these lines in a letter to the EDP: “Our village is a small village halfway between Dereham and Fakenham. On reaching this point you turn left towards Horningtoft and approach the village I live in

“This road was once a delight to see. Hedgerows with trees and bushes full of life, but in recent years the road has turned into an 800 meter stretch of tarmac separating two large areas of farmland with no trees or bushes in sight. The other road to Stanfield receives the same disgraceful treatment.

Of course, one of the most significant dates from a time when environmental concerns began to lead the way to our current problems of global climate change is October 16, 1987, when unexpected hurricane winds caused devastation widespread.

I wrote in my journal: “We mourn the loss of countless old friends. Fallen soldiers on the battlefields of Norfolk. Puzzled starlings offering a ten shout salute in branches wearing the colors of the autumn bride in a shroud. Leaves picked up and scattered like so many good intentions left by the laziness of summer.

“A modest breeze after this hurricane-mad dentist has uprooted so many years of natural beauty in town and country. We’re left wondering how many ceremonies with the shovel and public spirit to make an impact and digging into the past to find evidence that we might have got away with it lightly this time.

Coincidentally, October 16, 1881 brought big trouble. The vicar of East Dereham, the Reverend Benjamin Armstrong, noted in his diary:
“England was visited by a violent hurricane which caused much damage on land and sea.”

Henry Rider Haggard painted a far more dramatic picture at the end of the 19th century when he looked over his shoulder in A Farmer’s Year to sum up the storm of March 1895: “Trees were falling everywhere. They just bowed and disappeared. One moment they were up, the next they were gone.

“There the trees fell literally by the tens of thousands and I had never witnessed such a spectacle as the woods offered after the hurricane. In some cases they were perfectly flat, a pile of branches and wood tangled, and, here and there, standing above the debris, a deep-rooted oak tree with a twisted top or a tall Scots fir broken in half like a carrot.”

“A friend told me that he stood in the middle of a small park and watched the surrounding trees fall as if they were pressed to the ground by the power of a mighty hand. First, the outer trees would fall, then line by line those standing inside until there was little or nothing left.

“And the most curious thing about this marvelous spectacle was that no sound was heard.”

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