Bishopsbourne

The myth of ‘The Balance of Nature’

Nature does not stand balanced like some perfectly poised dancer pirouetting on a bar. Little Egret, Bridge. 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016

“The idea of a balance of nature has been a dominant part of Western philosophy since before Aristotle, and it persists in the public imagination and even among some ecologists today. In fact Nature is not in balance, nor has it ever been at any stage in Earth’s history.”
John Kricher. ‘The Balance of Nature; ecology’s enduring myth.’

On 7 February 2017 we finally had to concede that the Nailbourne had dried up. Not a trickle ran in constant flow through Bridge. Since it is a bourne, an occasional stream, which leaks from fissures in the chalk beneath East Kent, this is not to be unexpected; but it spells disaster for our local wildlife and the precious ecosystem of a rare chalk stream. A rich and varied biodiversity nurtured by the cool springwater will be lost: a delicate, heirarchical food chain which was gradually establishing itself in the heart of our valley will break and fail. Many species will either die or move elsewhere.

It is a populist notion that such events are all part of what some people call the ‘Balance of Nature’. They are not. Balance implies a system of self-correction, a sustained position of equilibrium. This is not what happens in Nature. The natural world does not stand balanced like some perfectly poised dancer pirouetting on a bar; it reels and lurches from one disaster to another, like a confused boxer losing badly in a fight.

“Nature is not a balance, it is just one catastrophe after another!”
Professor Richard Dawkins

When a natural catastrophe occurs on a large scale in a meteor strike, a flood, a volcanic eruption, or, on a smaller scale, perhaps the drying up of a village pond or a local spring, there is destruction and there is death. This creates a vacuum in the natural world and Nature abhors a vacuum. Something, in a quest for survival, will fill it; this invariably will be some species of plant or creature which is more suited to the new environment. An opportunity arises, something seizes it, but this opportunism must not be confused with ‘balance’, for the state of things will now be different, the equilibrium has not somehow been restored. Things have changed and in consequence there may now be a new order in the food chain, a new king ruling the jungle. He will rule as long as the new conditions remain or until the next catastrophe arrives to topple him from his place. It’s a continuing struggle for survival in which each individual in each species fights for itself in the face of ever looming death. In the 3.5 billion year history of life on Earth, over 99% of all the species that ever lived here are thought to have become extinct, either because they just couldn’t live in the environment in which they found themselves, or because a new, more advanced or adapted species was able to out compete them. This is a process called ‘speciation’ and we modern humans may face it one day as did Neanderthal man who failed to compete with us.

Mother Nature is not of gentle mind, she is a violent and ruthless ruler in her empire of the sun. Her flowers bloom sublime, but don’t be confused by her apparent charm and her fondness for the young: she has no compassion. Her disasters appear random, but they are all a consequence of her brutal rule. There is an order in the chaos, but it is heartless, inequitable and cruel. Life on Earth staggers on, trying to navigate through constant adversity and change: ‘carpe diem’, seize the day and do your best to survive, but be assured your death will come and you won’t be calling it a balance when the reaper swings his scythe.

Sometimes we think we see Mother Nature as a beauty, dancing elegantly to illuminate our lives in the darkness of her universe. Her beauty, her dancing and even the colours of her dress are mere mirage; but the miracle, the sublime, spectacular miracle, is that she ever manages to stand at all. We must hope we never live long enough to know when she finally collapses and her empire turns to dust.

 

 

Campaigns for conservation

Valued countryside: fields at Brickfield Farm, Bridge. The historic Bridge Place can be seen in the background. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

BridgeNature.org was conceived in 2012 with the objective of encouraging the appreciation of the wildlife and countryside in our local area. We began with a monthly newsletter, but later moved on to a website with regular articles, environmental information and picture galleries.

This is all very well meaning and, we hope, informative, but it has little value if we are not prepared to stand up and be counted when the very countryside and wildlife which we write about is under threat. So, from the outset, BridgeNature.org has campaigned zealously to protect our countryside with lobbying letters to local bodies like The Kent Downs AONB Management Unit, Kent Wildlife Trust and Natural England, as well as our own Parish Council and Canterbury City Council. We have also spoken on behalf of our countryside, hedgerows, trees and wildlife at public meetings and planning consultations.

So far, the success rate of campaigns which we have initiated or with which we have been associated has been astonishing, but it has been a team effort involving members of public bodies, action groups and of course the support of the public.

1. In 2014 we reported on an application to build a large equestrian arena and accommodation block in a field next to the hop farm in Bourne Park. This would have had a dramatic impact on the local scenery and would have brought heavy traffic into the area. In combination with Bishopsbourne Parish Council and local residents we campaigned to stop the progress of the application. The proposal was refused. Success

2. In 2015 we supported a resident in Union Road, Bridge, who was campaigning to save some of the oldest trees in the village from being felled by a local property developer. Together, and with immense public support, we achieved our aim. Only one tree (a dead one) was cut down. Success

3. In 2015 and 2016 we joined the campaign led by some residents of Lower Hardres and Nackington to stop the development of a huge solar farm between Nackington and Bridge on some of the best agricultural land in Britain. Bridge Parish Council Planning Committee voted to take a neutral stance on the issue, but, as a result of the combined protests of other local authorities, concerned environmental groups and the public, the proposal was twice withdrawn and now appears to have disappeared. Success

Sparrows in a devastated nesting site, Mill Lane, Bridge, 17 July, 2015. The result of inappropriate hedge cutting practices by Canterbury City Council. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

4. In late Summer 2014, 2015 and again in 2016, we made formal complaints to Canterbury City Council and Natural England regarding CCC’s regular policy of cutting the hedge on Mill Lane, Bridge, during the nesting season while a number of birds were clearly nesting there. This has led to the annual devastation of active nesting sites. To date CCC have not changed their policy, claiming that the hedge cutting is to make the road safe! This is nonsense. BridgeNature.org will continue to campaign to prevent this vandalism in our parish and we are now in contact with CCC Councilor Simon Cook who is kindly working with us to resolve this issue. Pending
***UPDATE***
On 5 Jan 2017 we were informed that this issue has now been resolved and the hedge will be cut after 31 August each year in compliance with modern environmental guidelines. We thank Councilor Simon Cook for his efforts in bringing about this change. Success

5. In Spring 2016 we campaigned to save two trees on Bridge Recreation Ground from being hacked back to their stumps in the potentially terminal exercise of pollarding. Two beautiful, healthy mature trees were to be vandalised simply because they were considered to be taking up too much room and causing moss on the tennis courts which were built in a damp location long after the trees were planted. Bridge Parish Council initially approved the pollarding, but, with a BridgeNature.org campaign involving local residents, letters to the Parish Council and the rigorous lobbying of Canterbury City Council Planning Department the Parish Council were persuaded to change their policy. The trees remain under threat, but we are ever vigilant. Success

6. Since conception BridgeNature.org has campaigned to protect the green fields around Bridge from housing development. They lie within our designated Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so housing development on them is generally restricted, but that has not stopped a long list of city councilors, parish councilors, prospective MPs, landowners, confused residents and aspiring property tycoons from trying to build there in order to satisfy their own wants. BridgeNature.org has spoken out vociferously on this issue, and just this month our views were endorsed by a government inspector who ruled that a city council proposal for a housing development of 40 houses cannot go ahead on Brickfield Farm, Bridge, because it would breach planning law and damage our AONB. We thank all those who joined us in this campaign. Success

These successes in protecting our wildlife and countryside have not necessarily been brought about by some innate ability or powerful political authority, they have been achieved by the combined actions of ‘people who care’ standing up to make their voices heard, or, more practically, sitting down to write, sometimes in defiance of local political authority.

The countryside of our AONB and the trees within our Conservation Areas have been protected by law for the good of us all and the future generations who follow because they are rare assets in an increasingly urbanised national landscape. Who would seek to destroy such treasures? Only the ignorant, the arrogant and the selfish; but we have all within our midst! Whatever the ambitions, lack of awareness or political powers of such people, we must make it clear to them that we will not allow them to destroy the things that we hold dear, and the more people who join in that call the louder it will be heard.

As 2016 draws to a close BridgeNature.org thanks all those residents who have supported our campaigns to date and we hope that you will support us in the future.

The unfamiliar Mipit

Meadow Pipit, Sheep Dip lane, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Meadow Pipit, Sheep Dip lane, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Silhouetted against the bright sky and a low winter sun, birds sitting on power lines and telephone wires can be virtually impossible to identify with the naked eye, so many visiting species simply go unnoticed. But modern technology can sometimes help, as in the case of the picture above. This bird was photographed this Autumn while perched on a power line near the Nailbourne when the bird was far too far away to be distinguished with the naked eye, and even through a zoom lens; but it was later identified on the computer screen as a Meadow Pipit.

Residents of Bridge may be surprised to know that the Meadow Pipit, which some experts abbreviate to ‘Mipit’, is a resident British bird and numerically one of our most common, but they are an upland species and their distribution is to the north and west of the country, so they are by no means a regular sight in this area. In Winter British numbers are supplemented by migrants from the north: many from Greenland and Iceland find their way to Ireland and the west of England but birds in our area are more likely to be visitors from Scandinavia. They tend to be lowland ground feeders with a preference for marshy or waterside locations where they eat beetles, spiders and a range of flies, particularly the cranefly (daddy long-legs).

Bird-watchers often have difficulty distinguishing the Meadow Pipit from the skylark, but the skylark’s head crest is generally the giveaway. Yet another bird, which looks very similar at a distance, was recorded on the same power line at exactly the same time as the Mipit. This bird sported similar colouring to the Mipit, but the beak was short and stubby while the Mipit’s beak is markedly narrow and pointed. These features were impossible to distinguish on location under a bright winter sun, but having examined the picture of the second bird, we believe it is a corn bunting. Corn buntings and skylarks are both regularly observed in our local meadows and they were featured in our article ‘Somewhere over the railway…’ which can be found here:

http://www.bridgenature.org/?s=corn+bunting

Corn Bunting?, Sheep Dip lane, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Corn Bunting? Sheep Dip lane, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Of brilliance and tragedy

Kingfisher at the Old Sheep Dip, Bishopsbourne, 1 Nov 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Kingfisher at the Old Sheep Dip, Bishopsbourne, 1 Nov 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Why is the Kingfisher so called? You may wonder how this diminutive bird earned his regal title. He does not have the majestic posture of the heron, or the fearsome aura of the osprey, but stand quietly on the bridge on Sheep Dip Lane for a few moments, watch a Kingfisher exercising his skills in the Old Sheep Dip, and you too may agree that this extraordinary little bird really is the sovereign of his craft.

This year, once again, we have at least one pair of Kingfishers living on our bourne and delighting all those who get a glimpse of them. They are mesmerising birds to watch: their colours in flight are brilliant and their skill is incredible, even though everything they do appears to be done at great speed. They arrive in a flash of electric blue darting low across the water, then perch on a prominent rock or branch overlooking a stretch of slow moving water watching for fish and small swimming creatures. When prey is sighted, they will plunge in a curving dive to enter the water, sometimes several feet away from their vantage point, and rarely seem to fail to make a catch. This is in part because of their the ability to switch instantly between two forms of vision: in the air their vision is monocular, but under water it is binocular, meaning they can instantly correct for the refraction of light in water to retain sight of their prey.

When a fish is caught the Kingfisher will return it to the perch, ensure it is dead, clasp it more aerodynamically in the beak, then, with great urgency it will fly off to feed the young in the nest. This will be a burrow two to three feet long, somewhere along the riverbank. There may be up to six chicks waiting eagerly for food, and with each of them needing perhaps a dozen small fish a day, the parent birds have a busy time keeping them fed.

As a species the Kingfisher is a master predator whose future seems secure; as individuals, from day one their lives are full of hazards. If they survive in the nest, free of predators and fluctuating river levels long enough to start fishing for themselves, they may drown at the first attempt, or they may be driven from their home before they learn sufficient survival skills. Many youngsters die within the first couple of weeks of leaving the nest. Then, with the onset of winter and freezing temperatures, ponds ice over and fish hide deeper, food is harder to find and many Kingfishers simply die of starvation or exposure. Only a quarter of all our Kingfishers, including the young, are thought to live from one breeding season into the next (1). That proportion appears to be enough to keep the species in continuity, for now, but we must treasure these crown jewels of the riverbank and do what we can to ensure our lives do not restrict theirs.

In Britain the appalling children’s ‘sport’ of throwing stones at Kingfishers thrived, with official encouragement, for centuries, but today these iconic little birds are specifically listed for special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and extra penalties apply to anyone who harms them or disturbs a nest.

(1) RSPB figure.

A visit from the Shovelers

Male Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 31 Oct 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Male Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 31 Oct 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

This week we have seen the arrival of some Shoveler ducks (at least two males, possibly two pairs) on the lake at Bourne Park. The Shoveler is about the same size as the mallard, and while the male is quite different in appearance from the male mallard, with large areas of white, patches of brown and a very dark green head, the female is a less spectacular mottled brown, which makes it harder to distinguish at distance from a female mallard. However, the most distinctive feature of both male and female Shovelers, if you can get close enough to observe it, is the large wide bill which it sweeps from side to side on the surface of the water or wet marsh mud looking for food. The edge of the bill has comb-like structures on it which allow the bird to effectively filter water and mud for the small edible creatures which it lives on.

Female Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 17 Nov 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Female Shoveler duck, Bourne Park, 17 Nov 2016. Image © Copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

During the Summer the Shoveler is a fairly common water bird in the South East of England and up the North Sea coast to the Humber Estuary, but it is rare in other parts of the country. In Winter many other Shovelers fly south from Scandinavia to substantially boost the numbers here.

We have not recorded Shovelers on the lake at Bourne Park before. Those that we did see were very shy of humanity and kept their distance.

The Sussex in Kent

Sussex cattle, Bourne Park, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Their 'mahogany red' colour glows in the evening sunlight. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Sussex cattle, Bourne Park, Bishopsbourne, October 2016. Their ‘mahogany red’ colour glows in the evening sunlight. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

If, in the last six months or more, you have taken a stroll along Bourne Park Road heading from Bridge towards Bishopsbourne, you may have noticed some reddish coloured cattle in a field off to the right between the road and the Nailbourne. These are Sussex cattle, one of the most famous and reputable breeds of cattle in the world: their colour is described historically as mahogany red.

The Sussex originated on the Weald of Sussex, Surrey and Kent and it is directly descended from a breed of cattle which roamed in Anderida, the huge forest which stretched over those counties before and at the time of the Norman conquest in 1066. These cattle were of course a source of food, but through the centuries as they were farmed and bred they became notable also as a draught breed for ploughing and pulling carts and they were used extensively for that purpose. Today we may think of the horse as the primary working animal of our ancient past, but this is not so, for centuries it was the ox, and the ox of choice would, without doubt, have been a Sussex. On the Weald, the steep terrain meant that the use of oxen as the main draught animal continued much longer than in some other parts of the country. In his travelogue ‘A Tour of Great Britain’ written in 1724, Daniel Defoe tells us of an old lady on the Weald being driven to church in a carriage hauled by six Sussex oxen.

Sussex cattle, showing characteristic colour and shape with higher rear end than shoulders and a white switch to the tail. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Sussex cattle, showing characteristic colour and shape with higher rear end than shoulders and a white switch to the tail. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

We do not think of the Kent and Sussex Weald as a forest area today because the woodland was felled in the early 18th century to provide timber for iron manufacturing during the industrial revolution. Sussex oxen were used as draught animals working in the forest and, to give an idea of the numbers of animals involved, Defoe, who was travelling through the area at the time, records teams of 22 Sussex oxen pulling each lumber cart.

The escarpments of the Weald meant that, once the forest had gone, large tracts of the land were not suitable for ploughing, so much of it was left as pasture. The Sussex continued to be prominent, primarily for beef production, although records show that in some parts of the Weald they were still used to haul ploughs right into the early 20th century.

In the last few days the Sussex cattle have been moved out of the field off Bourne Park Road; we do not know where they have gone to, although being beef cattle, we do know their ultimate fate.

Come Winter come Jack Snipe

Jack Snipe on the Nailbourne, Bishopsbourne. October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Jack Snipe on the Nailbourne, Bishopsbourne. October 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Late October, Winter is on his way and temperatures have dropped along with the sun’s intensity. But, no matter how cold we may think our county is over the next few months, East Kent will not descend into the intense freeze of Scandinavia. Knowing this, as have his ancestors for generations, Jack Snipe has flown south to pass a more temperate Winter season here in southern England.

This happens every year, yet Jack Snipe and his sisters remain mysterious birds and no one really knows how many arrive to Winter here, although observers say that numbers may be diminishing. The birds paddle secretively, often alone at the water’s edge foraging for insects, snails and worms, and if they sense danger or the approach of a predator their tactic is to sit still, immobile as a pebble and almost impossible to see with the naked eye, so difficult are they to distinguish from the muddy stones and river debris around them. Yet, once an intruder breaches their imagined circle of safety, they take off into rapid flight, reaching for the sanctuary of the sky. In flight the birds assume a much more dynamic persona, ascending rapidly with beating wings curved like scythes arcing through the air and the white patches on the underside and tail more prominent.

Jack Snipe is the smallest member of the Snipe family, distinguished from the Common Snipe by its diminutive size and a shorter bill. It may have acquired its name because people thought it was the male Common Snipe, but in olden times the name Jack was also often used colloquially to indicate something or someone of a distinctive character or smaller size than the rest of the group. Its Latin name Lymnocryptes Minimus means ‘The smallest one hidden on the marsh’, which sums up this charming little bird rather well.

NB. Jack Snipes have not been seen along the Nailbourne since this article was written a few days ago, so it may be that those previously observed were just passing through.

A harvest of Hops

Bringing in the hop harvest, Bishopsbourne 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Bringing in the hop harvest, Bishopsbourne 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

This week was harvesting week at the Hop farm near Flint Cottages. While in the past this was an event which would have seen hundreds of people employed in many of the fields around the area, today there just remains this one Hop farm of about 10 acres in our locality. It is recorded that Hop growing in Kent began in the area between Canterbury, Bishopsbourne and Lower Hardres so this is possibly one of the oldest Hop fields in the county. The harvesting was achieved by the hard work of a small group of people working by hand from the back of a tractor and trailer.

Gathering the hop harvest, Bishopsbourne 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Gathering the hop harvest, Bishopsbourne 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Hops were introduced to Britain by the Romans, not as an ingredient of beer, but as a supply of Hop shoots which were, and still are, considered a culinary delicacy. Hop farming for beer making began in earnest in Kent in the 1520s to provide the ingredients (only the Hop flowers are used) for a burgeoning beer industry and, as it turned out, the ‘terroir’ (conditions of land and climate) of the area proved perfect for the crop. By the late 1600s Hop growing had become a major agricultural activity in this county and the industry continued to grow until it reached its peak in the late 1800s. Thus, for over 300 years, vast numbers of tall stands of Hops growing on wired poles gave much of Kent’s agricultural landscape a unique and distinctive appearance. However, since its peak, changes in drinking habits, global free trade and taxes on alcohol have caused Hop growing in Kent and the rest of Britain to dwindle to a fraction of its former size.

Hop flowers, Bishopsbourne, Sept. 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Hop flowers, Bishopsbourne, Sept. 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Although some of the shoots from our Bishopsbourne Hops are served in London’s up-market restaurants, most of the flowers are exported to America for specialist beer brewing. Varieties to be seen growing on the farm include ‘Challenger’ and the world famous ‘East Kent Goldings’ variety which was developed from the Canterbury Whitebine Hop in the late 1700s. We understand the farm won first prize for their own crop of East Kent Goldings at the English National Hop Competition in 2011 and we wish them continued success!

 

Coots and Moorhens

Coot, Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Coot, Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

While most of us can easily distinguish mallard ducks when we see them paddling along the Nailbourne, there are some smaller, dark aquatic birds which live in and around the stream in greater numbers and often cause confusion amongst observers. These are the Coots and Moorhens, both ubiquitous in the lakes and rivers of Britain, but a surprisingly common question is: which is which?

The Coot is by far the most populous of the water birds along the Nailbourne and there are currently dozens living on the lake at Bourne Park. A member of the Rail family, it is a close cousin of the Moorhen. Smaller than the mallard duck, it is sooty black with a pinkish beak and a distinctive white frontal shield on its forehead. This shield is typical of the whole Rail family although colours vary. The specific need for it is not clear, but it is thought that it may protect the head while moving quickly through undergrowth and it appears to have some purpose in courtship rituals. The expression ‘bald as a coot’ is derived from this characteristic, although close observation reveals it is not an indication of baldness at all.

While very shy of humans the Coot is aggressive with its peer group and can often be seen literally running across the water in pursuit of another bird.

Moorhen, Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Moorhen, Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

The Moorhen is slightly smaller than the Coot, and generally dark in appearance from a distance but, on closer inspection, the plumage is revealed to be more brown than black, with blue tones to the belly and a white tip to the tail. However the Moorhen’s most distinguishing feature is a bright red frontal shield and a beak of the same red with a yellow tip. Like its cousin the Coot it is an omnivore, eating vegetation, seeds, grubs, snails and even small fish, but the two birds live frequently, if cantankerously, side by side and do not appear to over-compete for food.

Although both birds can fly some surprising distances, they have poor wing strength and tend to prefer pottering around in the undergrowth or paddling on the surface of water. If alarmed or threatened they tend to run away rather than fly.

Nature loves to confuse amateur naturalists so, just to make things complicated, young Coots look for all the world as if they should be young Moorhens, as in the picture below.

Adult Coot and chicks, Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Adult Coot and chicks (which look like they should be young Moorhens), Bourne Park. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org 2016.

Land of plenty

'Land of plenty' Sheep in Bourne Park, June 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org

‘Land of plenty’ Sheep in Bourne Park, June 2016. Image © copyright BridgeNature.org

As we stand a moment on the downs and contemplate the beauty of our Nailbourne Valley, shall we pause to spare a thought for those poor refugees, or economic migrants if you will, who strive to steal into this country, at any cost, from the ruined and war torn countries of the Middle East and far beyond? Let us consider the horror of their situation and wonder what those who make it across the white cliff border line of Dover, by fair means or foul, would think of this rural idyll.

To them every aspect of our local scenery must suggest a land of wealth; a lush green paradise dotted with farms and elegant country homes, the stately manors of the rich. We have gentle pasture land in green, buttercups in yellow, forget-me-nots in blue and a tangled kindle of woodland full of timber. We have a patchwork of fields full of crops: wheat for making bread, and golden barley, which, in ancient times, was more the favourite in the Middle East. We have fields of field beans which we feed to our livestock or export for staple dishes right across North Africa and the deserts beyond, and we have orchards filled with row upon row of trees laden with delicious fruits. For those genteel garden parties on our English summer lawns we have plastic tunnels so full of strawberries that we cannot begin to count them, and we have lines of hops for making beer: the very essence of the English pub, indolent leisure and the westerners’ love for having a good time.

Flocks of fattened sheep meander lazily across grassed chalky downs, and muscled beef cows chew the juicy cud in pleasant water meadows under the dappled shade of ancient ash and oak. We have such store of food, that even the fishes in our lakes and the wild birds like the little egret, the honking greylag goose, and the white mute swan, so good for eating, are left to live their lives in peace and plump prosperity.

And think upon those suffering souls in other parts who walk for miles each day to pull some dirty water from a rusting pump, that they may drink or wash their children: how would they view the crystal water of our little trickling stream? What music would they hear in its soft chatter?

How perfect must our own lives seem to those who look with hungry eyes upon our happy valley, in this, our land of plenty.