We’ve spent the last couple of weekends at a lovely campsite in Middleton-in-Teesdale, the heart of Durham’s prettiest dale. Leekworth Caravan Park hugs a particularly beautiful stretch of the Teesdale Way, with the river Tees forming the southern boundary of the farm.
Our first visit was during the late May heatwave, and would have been the bank holiday weekend if it wasn’t for the Jubilee. As ever I was looking for things to photograph, but the heat and my Taller Half’s not-unlimited patience kept my camera mostly in its bag – after all, what was the rush?
Leekworth Farm kisses an interesting section of the Teesdale Way. Turn left and you are faced with narrow, slippery tracks, steep edges and lots of steps. Turn right and you stroll along an idyllic riverside path, with shingle beaches and beech trees on one side, glorious river meadows behind a stone wall on the other. The right-hand path terminates at the bridge that links Middleton and Mickleton and is conveniently close to the centre of Middleton with its pubs and cafes.
It was a hot day, the sun was very bright, and My Taller Half was craving a pint (or two). I was craving an ice cream. So I drank in the beauty of the riverside path, ignored the screaming of my camera in its pack, and noted the wonderful array of woodland and meadow flowers that graced our path:
- wild garlic
- red campion
- cow parsley
- sweet cicely
- water avens
- greater stitchwort
- meadow saxifrage
- oh, and probably lots more…
That evening I walked along the path, this time on a mission with my camera. I got some nice shots, but unfortunately large stretches of the path was now in shadow, and I didn’t get all the flower shots I was hoping for.
Scroll forward a week, and we were back at Leekworth Farm. I went straight to the riverside path to finish where I’d left off, and was absolutely gobsmacked to find that the entire path had been strimmed. Not just the edges of the track, but the whole width of the path between the beech trees and the stone wall. I was horrified.
Walk down that path today, and you’ll say it’s a nice, pleasant path, with beautiful views either side. But if you’d seen it last week in its early summer glory you’d feel as devastated as I am. Dominated by the aniseed scent of sweet cicely, with pinks and blues from the campion and bluebells, just now the meadow cranesbill would be adding a purple tone. But no, all gone.
Grass verges have their places, and overgrown paths can be a nightmare, but there is no grass verge here, and the path is stone and will never be overgrown. The strimmer has left sweet cicely and cow parsley stalks, the plants desperately trying to put on new growth. If tidiness was the aim it has not been achieved. It has also opened up new areas for the many Middleton dogs to do their business in.
As I type I realise I should have taken photos of the carnage, but forgive me if I was too angry to do so. The loss isn’t to nature – the place is packed to bursting with flowers and would be an insect’s paradise if it ever stops raining this summer. The loss is to us walkers and strollers who enjoy nature and wild flowers.
Mr or Mrs Strimmer. If you are reading this, please let the wild flowers be. Or at least wait until they have finished flowering next time.
Update 11 June
Mark also links to a campaign by Plantlife to save our verges. Please support this – it’s very quick and easy to do. Plantlife Road Verge Campaign