6 Apr 2015

6th April 2015 Keep off the grass!!

Monday 6th 32-50F, 0-10C, clear and sunny after another frost. A replay of yesterday's weather including light winds.

A long and pleasaant walk through two woods. Where I saw a pair of Goldcrests and a pair of Longtailed tits. Several hares were sunbathing or sniffing about on the fields in between the woods. It is good to have the birdsong back again after the long cold winter.

I found myself arbitrarily blocked from using two converging footpaths which join the two woods separated by the main road. These tracks date back at least to the 1880s on all publicly available maps online. Denmark has several excellent and completely free online mapping and aerial photography systems with much historical data and imagery. They make Google Earth's fuzzy imagery look like an amateur night slide show! These same tyre rutted tracks cross boggy, long-uncultivated, mixed grass, tussocky fields. So it is impossible to cause any crop damage. They certainly aren't grazed and aren't even fenced. Only an idiot would walk on a wild flower.

I pointed out the long history of these tracks to one owner but he responded that I had not contributed to the upkeep of the paths. Nor paid any land taxes, as he had, so I could walk elsewhere. As far as I know I must be almost the sole user of these tracks. I never see any other tracks except the owner's restored tractor and trailer on firewood collecting missions. The paths are clearly shown on all maps and aerial imagery right up to the present day. I was very tempted to call his bluff and walk on. Perhaps inviting him to call the police if he thought himself on safe legal ground but I had no Danish word handy for tresspass. [I later discovered that tresspass is the same in both languages.]

There isn't the same clearly marked public footpath system, as there is in England. I am still fairly certain that I do have the legal right to use mapped paths and tracks on private land under Danish law. The law relating to public access to the countryside in Denmark has been awaiting an update for years without progress or even agreement.

With farms growing ever larger and increasingly industrialised, many former paths have been lost to field expansion into the present vast monocrop "prairies." Which are efficiently worked by vast machines guided by GPS accompanied by an ever increasing pesticide load [doubled since 2000] and major habitat loss. Research suggest that 54% of field tracks and paths have been lost in the last ~60 years. Making acces to the countryside far more difficult. Moreover, most kommunes [local authorities] have no system to regulate illegal closure of paths and tracks. Which is odd considering how poor a press modern farming gets on so many fronts. You'd think the farming community would be glad to see families and walkers freely enjoying the countryside at such low cost to themselves. If only as a token sign of goodwill. Much of farming subsidy is earmarked for [often completely false] environmental grounds.  

Modern, high density, "greenfield" housing estates are springing up on the edge of larger villages and towns. Mostly on steeply sloping sites no longer suitable for big machine agriculture. Many sites leave very poor access to the natural world for the family occupiers on their housing "island." I know of one large housing estate locally where the solitary farm track to the picturesque village [with pond and year-round ducks] is marked as strictly private. The whole area was once scrubby fields and tracks.

Meanwhile there is a desperate need to convince the remaining rural Danes not to escape from the countryside to the allure of the big city. The closure of local village shops and such facilities is at an all time high.

There is an equally desperate need to convince the Danes to get some exercise out in the fresh air. As an aid if not an actual cure for the growing epidemic of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. With people driving themselves and their kids to work, school and the shops people just don't walk anywhere anymore! Even when they get to their intended goal they park as near to the entrance as possible. Then lean on the handle of their shopping trolley to avoid carying their own excess weight on both rear legs. In addition to my cycling I walked for over 2½ hours today over mostly rough ground. The images here are taken from the track back in only slightly colder February.

My ride was less eventful and in continuing bright sunshine. The supermarkets were full of customers but badly understaffed. I hit 31mph on one descent thanks to the light winds. It was more like a breathless 8mph in bottom gear on the earlier climb. The Brooks B17 'Special' saddle is slowly regaining my trust. 14 miles.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

No comments:

Post a Comment