Anyone who has read this blog over the last few years will know that one of the greatest pleasures I have taken from retiring, and therefore having more discretionary time, has been in walking around the vicinity of our home in Gloucestershire. That has continued in the last few quiet weeks of Covid-19 semi-lockdown.
The weather has become distinctly Autumnal. Now there are puddles and a sogginess underfoot on some of the footpaths that is requiring more care and more mud and waterproof footwear. However, the weather has been largely good and recent walks have continued to be full of interest.
The berries on the trees and hedgerows remain vibrant and fungal growths on tree stumps seem to have become more extravagant.
The local streams have become little gushing torrents again following the rain and the birds are noisy with their staking out of their territories.
The changing seasons are bringing shifting palettes of colour to the views from walks where the green of fields and trees has previously dominated. I am hoping that the warmth of the summer that accumulated in our woods has allowed trees to make the sugars that will bring out even more brilliant browns, reds and yellows as the month progresses.
The only irritants on my local walks have been the increasing prevalence of discarded face masks and dog poo bags along the way. I have read that the standard plastic face masks take 450 years to decompose. In recent years I have seen a raised consciousness of how the oceans are filling up with our plastic waste and I feel that we have begun to understand the potential (all bad) implications of this for the food chain and wildlife degradation. Suddenly we have found a way of reversing that progress through carelessness in disposing of face masks; frustrating!
Perhaps I shouldn’t get started on dogs and their owners’ misuse of poo bags. It makes my blood boil and I’m sure the issue is getting worse. Of course, no-one wants to step in dog poop. Picking it up and disposing of it safely should be a basic requirement for any dog owner. But many choose not to do so when their dog is on a footpath crossing a field. That endangers not only my shoes but also livestock in the field.
Some dog owners are diligent in picking up their mess. However, when they do, most use plastic bags that usually take centuries to decompose and create micro-plastic particles that simply end up poisoning the earth or flow into the oceans. Googling ‘dog poo bag decomposition’ produces pretty frightening results. Then there are the worst dog owners who pick up the poo and then, astonishingly, leave the bag swinging in a nearby hedgerow or lying by the side of the path; disgusting!
Of course, dogs bring huge amounts of pleasure to millions of people. But I worry when I read that people in the UK alone have bought 2.2 million dogs in the last six months of Covid-19 lockdown. Will spotting discarded poo bags be the norm on any outing? And what about the meat consumption of all those pets and the impact on greenhouse gasses that has?
I know – I shouldn’t have started my rant. Rant over! I’ll focus on enjoying the views during my walks by looking upwards and hoping my mud-proof footwear deals with the rest.