All Terrain Vehicle? Mars Rover?
missions of discovery
The rover heads toward a colourful and richly featured outcrop. There are things to be discovered, examined, and to fire the imagination. Not just the objects themselves, but the sense of possibility inherent in ths sort of landscape.
One thing we can do is look at the kinds of plants that occur. Pretty quickly we stop to look at the coltsfoot, which we mistakenly thought of as butterbur – which it resembles in leaf shape, but not size. I also think of butterbur as a waterside plant, but this is in about the most arid soil around. Maybe it’s not the plant I’m thinking of.
Next to it is a clump of flytipped garden cuttings – holly, clematis – or something like it. But it’s the abstracted shape that’s interesting. Or is that about how the mind finds a pattern in the lines of stems? I’m thinking of Stick Around, the new project we’re running at the orchard. But it’s also nest-like, hair like, maybe even turban-like. Various images come to mind. The patterns start to shift around, the bundle seems to take on a variety of shapes. There’s a whirling vortex of a galaxy in there.
This is a placeholder for a comment about maintaining agricultural landscapes – without and within cities. It’s from Richard Mabey’s Roadside Wildlife Book, pp 34-37.
Before formal verges existed, there was no problem. The land at the edge of a road was normally just part of the adjacent farmland, and was kept tidy because cattle were put out to graze on it. This, of course, is still done along many minor roads in upland Britain.
The vast new area of verge created along the Enclosure roads saw the advent of the ‘lengthsman’, a labourer responsible for the maintenance of the verges along a fixed length of highway. These he would cut meticulously with a hand scythe, sparing individual flowers and young seedling trees at his own discretion. If he had the necessary skills he might also deal with the hedging and ditching along the same length of road, scything in the summer and laying in the winter. Very little of this crop was wasted. The scythed grass was raked up for hay, and the hedge—trimmings used for firewood.
This gentle and discriminating cutting regime, allowing the herbage to grow naturally for much of the summer, produced a sward in which a multitude of flowering plants were able to flourish, bloom and set their seed.
Hand-scything (supplemented by cutting with haymowers] continued up until the end of the 1950s. By then the continued increase in the length of road needing maintenance and the mounting costs of hand cutting had made it uneconomical. Therefore when powerful chemical weedkillers became available the Highways Authorities were very quick to adopt them. They were a potentially cheaper and longer-lasting alternative to cutting.
There’s also this interesting observation made in passing on p37, but which underscores a lot of my thinking
There are a number of factors which have brought about this change in attitude. Most significant is probably the increasing realisation of what a crucial role verges play in our landscape Pattern. They are no less important than classic beauty spots lust because we tend to take them for granted.
…and this is downtown
But it’s less than the whole truth. It’s a scrap of waiting-to-be-developed land just east of the commercial core. It sets up a great contrast between the aspirational pretension of the Masshouse apartment block and the commercial glitz of Selfridge’s.
It represents a different kind of space set into the urban fabric.