Outside a church, a board welcomes visitors to “The Unkempt Churchyard”. Pamphlets in the church describe the wildlife and defend the policy, for there have been complaints. But when Mark Cocker visits the churchyard, he finds the rye-grass monoculture now so familiar in Britain. Even the daisies are missing. A broad-spectrum herbicide has killed them. Traditional yews have been replaced with leylandii that support almost no insect species. Other trees have ivy, a vital source of nectar for autumn insects. But the leaves are brown and crinkled. Each stem has been cut at the base. Chippings on many graves stop plants from growing. The only wildlife he sees is a patch of brambles and the remains of a sparrowhawk’s pigeon. Yet the noticeboard and the pamphlet seem sincere. The complaints about untidiness were probably strongly felt. Nearby, he comes to a farm that grows daffodils. This is the Easter flower, Wordsworth’s dancing flower, the flower that represents spring. But these daffodils are another monoculture. In lifeless soil, huge numbers stand in lines, their concentrated yellow resembling the colour of paint or plastic. Yet in people’s homes they will seem to breathe spring’s abundance. Encounters like these reveal a great contradiction…. Read full this story
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