We are all tenants of this planet, aren’t we? You may well own your £1.5 million house on the leafy Crouch End/Highgate border, but when you shuffle off this mortal coil, you ain’t going to take it with you, are you? Yes, you may well leave it to your beloved offspring, and they may well blow the lot on gambling and very fast drugs (and waste the rest). And then it will be handed over to someone else, won’t it?
By the same token, we are all tenants of our allotment site – but we’re not the only ones. When you see that robin hanging out impatiently, waiting for you to get on with the digging and unearth some more juicy worms, what you have to bear in mind that although you may well think it’s your plot, in fact, he has other ideas. To him, it is his plot. So just get on with the digging and then clear orf out the way for him to tuck in.
Which in a roundabout way brings us back to the somewhat tiresome but perpetual subject of rules and regulations, in this particular instance, trees. The rules and regulations state that we are not allowed “weed trees” – oak, ash, sycamore, etc. In fact we are not allowed any trees at all except fruit trees, and these should be no more than three metres in height, maximum. And why is that? Because they take up a large amount of space, they drink a large amount of water, they generate a large amount of shade, and if we let those fellas proliferate, then we might as well rename our site Shepherds Hill woods and forget about the gardening altogether (we have, in the past 30 years or so, lost at least half a dozen plots to the encroaching woods, but I’m not sure we are about to surrender any more).
And why has this troubled little issue raised its head again, and what has it got to do with the wildlife? Well, because one of our fellows touched on it with a comment to a recent blog concerning site inspections. In fairness, she has a point. The trees of which she speaks are most certainly “illegal”, and they are certainly impacting on her plot. Knowing her plot as I do, she has a case, and if we were to implement the rules to the letter, said trees would have to come down. We’re back to the old debate – boot camp or anarchy?
I regret to say that in this instance, what remains of my liberal instincts have got the better of me. While I may rant and rage at those tenants who can and should meet their obligations under the tenancy agreement, I also have an eye out for those tenants who have no voice, bar the chirping and cheeping that is a constant feature of the allotment site. We need to cut some slack here on behalf of our feathered friends.
So what if we were to raise the site, to take out each and every tree that does not fit entirely within the rules? Bar saplings, there are very few, if any, oak, ash and sycamore on the site itself (just within the boundaries, yes, but not where they are causing any particular problems), and I am pretty pro-active when it comes to dissuading tenants from allowing these things to proliferate wherever they raise their heads. But the victims of such a cull on the site proper would include at least two fir and pine trees, which, I believe, are favourite nesting territory for various species of wild birds. Do I want to trash those? Answer: a very firm no.
The birdies on our site are doing fine thank you, courtesy in no small part to people like me. I’ve got about two dozen nesting boxes dotted around the site – all built and sited according to RSPB specifications. I spend about £30 a month on nuts and seeds and always make sure they have fresh water for drinking and bathing, especially in the summer. I do my best to ensure that our tenants are careful in their use of netting (either make sure that the little blighters can’t get in at all, or make sure that if they do, they have an escape route). And I’m not the only one. And I am also conscious of the fact that certain other predators are not suffered either.
Maybe we should take the long view here. The existence of birdies (and trees for that matter) pre-dates that of humanity on this planet, and there is a fair bet that when we homo sapiens have finally blown it, there will still be a few birdies around to pick away at the corpse. Should we (inadvertently) continue to drive them out for the sake of the odd allotment rule or regulation, for the sake of the odd shady bit that conspires to trash our attempts at human endeavour? I think not.
Tweet! Tweet! Who’s the biggest twitter here then?