Last year, as I was conducting bird surveys, I came across a shepherds hut, the temporary home for a couple of shepherds who grazed the surrounding meadows with their flock of sheep and accompanying dogs. They were very friendly, both the shepherds and the dogs, curious about what I was doing with a pair of binoculars and a clipboard so far from any village or road. There were no fences, there were no Angus cattle, there was no ploughing. Instead the fields were filled with Anacamptis morio orchids, a lesser grey shrike was poised in a nearby bush and the whole scene seemed full of life.

What I came across this year was the above image. The hut was abandoned, the shepherds, sheep and dogs gone. On every side, vast ploughed fields or intensively grazed Angus cattle pasture enclosed by electric fences. Amongst the ploughed, upturned earth I saw a couple of small patches of green where the grass was still showing, and on one of these islands there was an orchid. A stark reminder of what I had seen the previous year, and a depressing image of what destruction these changes had caused.

Not only had these changes caused ecological damage, but they had removed all culture from this landscape. The is very little chance of the shepherd and his sheep returning or the orchids re-emerging. Instead it is now a landscape that could be anywhere in Europe, lacking distinctiveness, richness and character. A transition that took less than a year to achieve.

I observed something similar.



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