WORDS AND THE CONSERVATIONISTS 2
Naturalness makes no pretence at being a scientifically definable concept. But it’s a valuable term nonetheless that should not be allowed to fall foul of the conservationists’ desire to highjack any term for self-serving purposes.
When we look at a piece of land, however small, and its appearance suggests no evidence of recent human intervention or exploitation we may conclude that the prime responsibility for what we see has been natural processes. That's an example of a sense of naturalness. And any change to come will be natural change assuming no management comes along. We don't need to be overburdened with specialised education to appreciate that; just to know from observation what are the effects of lawn mowing and its conservation equivalent, sheep grazing; and to be able to tell that a pile of timber or brushwood means someone has been intervening/meddling/managing. Natural-looking may not be an accepted scientific term but its subjectivity can still be the basis of a fair working consensus. Keep the special interests at a distance and most of the public would, I’m sure, agree.
This is a pointer to just the kind of land that Blacka should be. For Blacka, ‘natural-looking’ is entirely appropriate because for many years in the last century Blacka went nature's way. It regained a soul and some natural dignity after a lengthy period of unloving exploitation reduced to being the slave of the over-privileged shooter class. The more conspicuous any human intervention, the closer Blacka gets to losing its soul.
When you raise this as a criteria of naturalness for your enjoyment, the small-minded Gradgrinds never fail to rise with half-understood clichés forged in the self-interest of farmers and managers. "None of this country is natural,” they parrot, with a shadow sneer on the mention of the word, “it's all the result of management. " Farming discourse is full of this sort of thing and it’s never far away from what you hear on Farming Today or see on Countryfile.
It is of course a weaselling use of language that presupposes an agreed understanding that management is unfailingly benign. In fact management of land has always, to a greater or lesser degree, been exploitation. Much past land use has left areas blighted and natural processes harshly suppressed. But that doesn't come close to the ability of present mechanised practices to impact on the whole landscape with devastating speed. All that seems to hold the managers back is the time it takes to fill in the forms and transfer the grant funding.
The response to this should be along the lines: "In much of this country we can see the results of exploitation of the land, a better word than management. Few people would argue with land being managed for essential food production, an excusable exploitation as long as it's carried out with minimal damage to wildlife but this still leaves large parts of our countryside where the suppression of nature is carried on for personal gain and whim of the wealthy. It takes only a few years free from management for a sense of natural dignity to start to return. Longer and the rewards are greater.
The apologists for SRWT, and, amazingly, there are some, resist criticism of SRWT's uglifying management style by saying that the idea of a place looking 'natural' is just subjective. So shoving dead tree and scrub remnants against trees in the fringe woodland is OK by them. Wait a bit longer and we might have all trees removed and a few choice ones replaced by plastic replicas and inconveniently unpredictable wild animals by stone sculptures or interpretation boards with pictures. Don’t like it? You’re just being subjective.
Everything does not need to be defined to the Nth degree with standardised assessment. Most of us can tell with no problem what looks as if it has developed without human interference over many years. And that is what some of us value. Others can keep their artificial cultural heritage nonsense -little better than gardening with bird tables.