Letter in the Western Morning News at the start of the Britain in Bloom debate, 26 August 1998

Your article on Garden Wildlife (WMN, August 20) highlighted that farmland has become increasingly sterile and that gardens have had to assume the role of wildlife refuges.

However, you omitted any mention of the Britain in Bloom brigade and the influence they wield in defence of chemical warfare and prissy neatness.

I live by a picturesque main road and a river adjoining open countryside.

I have allowed a small lawn to revert to long grass and weeds. It has attracted shrews, field mice, all manner of birds and even some butterflies and moths I have never seen before.

Little grows that cannot be found along the road verges for miles in any direction yet neighbourhood reaction has ranged from agreement to complaints to the district council - who have written to ask when I am going to cut the grass.

The twist in the tail is that months ago I was elected as a town councillor on an "environmental" platform. The Britain in Bloom brigade are furious, especially as I have highlighted their use of slug pellets and peat.

How pathetic that established wildlife habitats should be destroyed to produce the raw material for acres of garish flowers used to prettify town centres for a few weeks. Given that the displays look so artificial, why not use plastic flowers?

It is particularly annoying to see wildflower rich verges ripped to pieces and subjected to a Britain in Bloom makeover as a part of "best kept village" competitions.

Whilst gardens may have a role to play as refuges for a few decades, there are many species they cannot help.

In the longer term we should seek a return to more natural methods of farming and accept the higher food prices that would result. It is a tragedy that soon there will be no people left who will be able to recall the richness of flora and fauna that used to share our countryside. Silent Spring indeed.

Dr Stephen J Wozniak

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