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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

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Growing up in the urbanised Ellacombe valley I absorbed the natural world without realising, for despite the density of housing, fur and feathers were all around me.

Generous back gardens housed chickens, ducks and geese. Rabbits lived under wire mesh cover, and aviaries of budgies were popular.

Horse and carts made occasional deliveries and there was a smithy near the park where Mr Lock shod the local equine population.

Children were free to roam from dawn to dusk where bug-filled back lanes became stage-sets for cowboys and Indians, explorers, hide and seekers, and dreamers.

The lanes were a kaleidoscope of colour where butterflies and wild flowers flourished. From wing-filled skies to small mammals scuttling, wildlife lived alongside hedgehogs, field mice, grass snakes, and all species of birds. We studied jam jars filled with grasshoppers, crickets, ladybirds and butterflies as they stared hopelessly back!

Dandelions turned green to gold, girls made daisy chains and grasses grew seed heads. At night, moths clouded the air and bats were everywhere. A 24-hour supply of insects guaranteed successful breeding for the bats and our garden birds.

Where did it all go? Did it buckle under the weight of the herbicides and pesticides for the masses? Cats are blamed today for the destruction of urban wildlife but maybe those pots of "control" and our desire for "neat and tidy" did the real damage.

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