Strimmed!

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
  • pignut
  • sweet cicely
  • buttercup
  • bluebell
  • water avens
  • forget-me-not
  • 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.

Meadow saxifrage – a new tick for me, with delicate, cranesbill-like petals

Sweet cicely dominated the path, its delicate fern-like leaves and aniseed scent a joy to any walker

Sweet cicely didn’t get everything its own way – there were patches of cow parsley too

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.

Weeds can be beautiful too – this chickweed growing out of the stone wall catches the last of the sun. The chickweed is still there, but the other flowers are lost

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.

The fields of Teesdale are blazing yellow with buttercups and other meadow 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 Avery’s blog features a guest post by Sarah Pettegree where she tells her experience of seeing beautiful wild flowers mown away by her over-zealous council. Check it out here

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 

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About Yasmine

After working with horses for many years I came to my senses and got a 'proper job'. I now live in Weardale with My Taller Half, a mad border collie and 5 chickens. Still wishing I could spend all my time in the great outdoors
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4 Responses to Strimmed!

  1. Well said Yasmine – vandalism which ever way you look at it!

    • Yasmine says:

      Thanks Paul. It turns out it’s not just me who gets angry. Check out the update for a link to Plantlife’s campaign and one blogger’s story of roadside destruction

  2. reina says:

    In the Netherlands this happens too, but there is often handled a kind of in-between. Paths with long grasses and flowers (and hogweed corarsnip or bears breath) during wet days are not a pleasure for those people who have to use them to get to work or school, wet trouserlegs are a nuisance. So, communities have decided to do half and half, trim the first 40 cm. (a foot and a third) and leave all that is farthest from the path. Insects and later birds (seeds!) will still have a feast and passengers will nit have wet surprises or itchy legs and farthermore, wildlife will not get hurt from getting “out of the bushes” onto a path with a nearly silent bicyclist, which often leads to dead toads and other small animals. There is a way men and animals can have their way in peace!

    • Yasmine says:

      Well said Reina. This is a very sensible solution and many paths in the UK are managed this way – but sadly many are not! I’m sure you get stinging nettles in the Netherlands too. We definitely don’t like footpaths overgrown with nettles, even though they are good for wildlife – ouch!

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