In Praise of Brown Field sites

One of many delights of the lighter evenings is to take the dogs for their final walk of the day around the old Hogshaw Tip. Despite its former history it is one of the top places to catch the dusk chorus. 

Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins are the principal songsters, but, Willow Warbler and White Throats provide the backing vocals as the light fades away, and thoughts turn to settling down for the evening. 

Absent this year though are the Swifts. Apart from a few brief appearances, usually in the early mornings as they screech across Lightwood Road in threes or fours, they have stayed away from Hogshaw.  

Maybe they will return, as everything seems to be running a few weeks behind this year. Perhaps their nesting sites have been lost, and they have had to look elsewhere, who knows, but one can only hope that they will come back and soon. A summer without the sight and sounds of swifts racing and screaming across the skies would be a poor summer.  

Reclaimed by Nature

The old tip, closed in 1974 apparently, has been reclaimed by nature, and now it’s a mixture of trees, scrub, wild and domestic flowers and brambles cut through with some of the debris and rubbish that continues to be dumped here. This perfectly untidy mixture provides plenty of nesting sites and it appears lots of insects, seeds and berries. It also forms an important corridor for wildlife, linking as it does with other strikingly scruffy marginal sites across town, almost as far as Corbar woods and then out into the uplands and moors.  

The dogs spend most of the time on these evening walks with their noses deep in the grasses and bushes. A rabbit breaks cover and goes unnoticed by them until they come across its scent a few seconds later and then they are off in a lazy half-hearted pursuit, only to be distracted a few yards later by another intriguing, interesting and important smell, the rabbit now a distant and fading memory. 

Such peace, such tranquillity, this little patch of nature soothes and calms, providing space to think, and to clear the mind.  It should be treasured, valued, protected, and loved, for as well as being a wonderful place to walk the dogs or just to stroll alone or in company, it is also a natural playground where children can explore and encounter nature. 

But people leave their rubbish there, plastic bottles, plastic bags and other household waste. However actually none of this matters, as in a few short years it will be gone, built over, developed for housing. It is after all a brown field site and consequently in the eyes of the planners and the councillors who decide these things, of little or no environmental value. 

Meanwhile a few silent fields away, swathed in a monoculture of grass and sheep, the green belt lies protected but ecologically castrated.  

Brown Field sites should be recognised for their ecological value

It’s time we recognised the true value of the so called brown field sites, and stopped automatically earmarking them for development. The assumption that trips of the tongue with such unthinking ease of “ Green field good, Brown field bad” is out of date and dangerously wrong, we need to value and protect these sites before it is too late. 

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