World Soil Day is 5th December

Barred Plymouth Rock chicken with single red comb

Earth’s name should remind us of its thin layer of soil that provides 95% of our food, but how much do we know about the soil? It’s one more thing most of us take for granted. I certainly found no pictures of good old plain soil in my files and found myself wishing I’d taken a picture of a giant molehill I noticed a day or two ago.

Scientists compare our soil to a living skin, vulnerable to rough treatment, chemicals and erosion. And rough treatment is often what it gets.

UK readers may be feeling outraged that one of our beautiful, meandering rivers, Hereford’s River Lugg, has been reshaped by landowner(s) who almost certainly knew of their legal duty to protect it. A site of special scientific interest, the river and its “riverbanks, gravels and beds of water crowfoot are home to crayfish, otters and salmon, lampreys and dragonflies and a host of rare river wildlife” to quote The Wildlife Trust.

Trees that cascaded branches over the river have been removed, the banks straightened and flattened and river gravels have been scraped away by a 16 tonne bulldozer.  Without nature’s trees and gentle curves to protect it, the soil on the riverbank will erode into the river, taking chemical fertilisers and pesticides with it.

If you read the Wildlife Trust article I’ve linked to, your day will not improve.

Muscovy duck with red face

So should we who love nature write about threats to it, especially at this time when we need good cheer to bring us through the winter? If so, who am I to lecture anyone about soil management (or anything else)?

Instead, to celebrate our soil, I decided to share pictures of living things that are closer to the earth than we are. It might be fancy, but in their expressions I read some of what I wanted to say. The duck might actually be putting it more sternly than I’d have dared to.

Guardian tree near a fairy bridge

And as a thank you for staying with me this far, still on my soil theme, I’m adding a couple of pictures from woodland. The first shows one of the fairy bridges I sometimes mention in the background. After the leaves drop, the path is laid bare; in summer’s dappled shade, it all feels more mystical. On a wet autumn day, the path’s soil is a slippery mud bath, but as it dries it becomes flat and innocent-seeming.

I wonder if any of you noticed that the guardian tree that grows near the start of the path has eyes. Is that type of expression a step too far?

Exposed tree roots

Whether or not trees have eyes may be contentious, but we’d all agree they have roots. Roots that know the soil better than we ever will; that share resources unlocked by the billions of chain-forming living things mostly unknown to mankind that we could find in every bucket of rich, live woodland soil. Now that’s mystical.

For more about World Soil Day, and a molehill complete with mole, visit the United Nations website.

36 Replies to “World Soil Day is 5th December”

  1. I was appalled when I read about it this morning!. An utterly SHOCKING disregard of laws and legality by those who really should know better but who wear a cape of arrogance that assumes such ‘trivialities’ do not apply to them. They MUST be held to account AND made to restore that stretch of river to what it was.

    1. The farmer doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong and argues he knows that part of the river better than anyone. Part of the trouble seems to be that the agencies who are supposed to oversee our natural areas have little funding, power or influence.

  2. Through good friends, we know the River Lugg, and what it brings to the areas through which it travels, so I too was scandalised by yesterday’s news. There are to many who arrogantly assume that the land they have is theirs to treat as they wish. Happily, these days there can be consequences, as some landowners near here recently found out to their cost – a very big cost. But money alone won’t put right the wrong that’s taken place at the River Lugg.

    1. Good point. The river will evolve from here but can never go back. Have you been keeping up with the story? There is an article on Farmers Weekly with a poll about whether the farmer was right or wrong, running at 50% approval, as I write.

  3. Yes, I immediately saw the tree’s eyes. And I’m sorry to hear about the depredation of that mile of the River Lugg. No doubt you’ll keep us apprised of further developments.

  4. A sad. beautiful post, but a necessary one, too. One of a writer’s jobs is to bear witness, and you have done this in an eloquent way. On a lighter note…I saw those eyes right away. Also love the notion of a fairy bridge!

  5. Excellent post, Susan. Very sorry to read about the destruction of yet another natural resource, that despite any fines or other pressure can never be returned to its previous state. Man seems to have learned nothing about taking care of our earth, at some point the earth won’t be taking such good care of us.
    Your woodland images are lovely and you made me laugh with “I should have taken a picture….” How many times I have thought that later on.

    1. My sweetheart says if you see something you think might make a picture you should always stop and take it because you’ll never go back. I don’t even know exactly where I saw it now.

  6. By melancholy coincidence, there was just a report in this area about six acres of old woods cleared suddenly. I do not know much about it except the owner said he owns the property and therefore can do what he wants with it. This point of view is not entirely persuasive. I love your notion that we should look to those who live closer to the soil, and I absolutely read messages of warning in the eyes of both chicken and duck, not to mention the eyes of the tree. That man who says he can do what he wants because he owns might want to spend some time with all three. Good to think about. Thanks. (p.s. Very handsome birds!)

    1. That’s sad to hear. These stories have made me think a lot, including about our agencies of regulation and protection. Our farmer believes he has done the right thing too.

  7. In my case it’s evening and it certainly doesn’t make my evening feel better! I had just been getting over the same news about the soil which I read this morning in The Guardian and you’ve re-opened the sore. Well said, and I hope that lots of people read this and what’s more, act upon it, where they see damage being done. Love your pix by the way.

    1. It is clear the farmer has a good deal of support from his local community who are keen to stop their houses flooding. People lower down the river whose land may now flood instead are less likely to be supportive.

    1. We are hearing a lot from the government about green jobs, new national parks and world-leading environmental protection at the moment. Let’s hope it’s not a reprisal of the marketing sound-bites we heard about our track and trace system.

  8. No excuse for ignorance of the law, I hope they incur big fines and a restoration bill. I hope people wake up soon to how dependent we are upon the earth for our survival and start taking care of it. Sooner the better, Mother Nature is starting to push back!

    1. I read several comments in the local newspaper for the area that raised my eyebrows, including one marvelling that anyone could put plants and wildlife before people (I paraphrase).

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