Herbert Colborne Oakley   (1869 - 1944)
The Concerned Citizen

Written at: St. David's, Wales, 1931

Printed in: "The West Wales Guardian"




To the Editor of the "West Wales Guardian"

Sir,- Will you again allow me space in your paper to vent not only my own strong feeling, but that of many others on the subject of hedgerows.  There are many blessings in life which we only wake up and value from the time that they are taken from us.  Good health, especially, exemplifies this principle.

Like many others I take frequent walks beside the wayside of our Pembrokeshire highways and hedges, marveling as all must do at the profligacy of beauty on every hand.  But we are not allowed to enjoy this pleasure without interruption, and to contemplate the trend of things without much misgiving.  And what is the trend of things?  Thoughtless and needless destruction at the hands of merciless roadmenders.  They, like a mischievous little boy recently presented with a new pocket knife, must needs hack and hew from the sheer delight of destruction for destruction's sake, and whilst upbraiding them for their indiscriminate zeal as destroyers we find they have authority behind them for doing these things; in fact they are plenipotentiaries, invested with power from those who would be shocked to be classed as Vandals and Goths, dead to Beauty's appeal, indifferent to Nature's charms.  What do we find then in the wake of the destroyer upon a summer's day?-

"When grasses of a thousand dyes
Wave in the west wind's summer sighs"

(Sir Walter Scott)    

Foxgloves, ferns, the great and lesser knapweeds, toadflax, pale yellow and orange, spike's magenta, wood betony, clustered stars of St.-John's-wort, the massed yellow flowerets of the ragwort, the vivid pink campions and centaury spikes, grasses of every kind, blue, mauve, and purple scabious, all these and many more, among which have flitted on careless wing gay butterflies, all these beautiful flowers are laid low, and in the place once so well adorned we can see at our leisure the closely cropped hedge and a barren prospect as we proceed for miles on the highways of the King.  Highways that are the heritage of all and only despised by those who are invested with power to destroy their loveliness.

We all well know that there is a practical as well as a poetical side to this question.  Ditches must be duly kept clean, and where the view is obstructed to the danger of the public in certain places the scythe must do its worst.  But it is the needless trimming, careless chopping about that inspires a very sincere and heartfelt complaint.  Is it too much to hope that the powers that be shall one day give due heed to our protest?  And where they have destroyed, preserve, and what they have lightly esteemed, prize?  -  Yours etc.,


          August 18th, 1931

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