Introduction - The Lost Life
Our native landscape in the UK is a shell of its former self, and our wildlife continues to deplete because of it. Secret Love Affair explores my relationship with Britain's dying landscape.
As a species, we are very good, and I mean very good, at adjusting to circumstances very quickly leading to false assumptions of what is normal; we simply just adapt without giving much thought to the consequence of this blind faith. Every decade we lose more and more of our wildlife, mainly due to habitat loss and chemical use in our countryside, and the OCD tidiness of our gardens and green spaces. In our obsession with perfection, we have forgotten to ask ourselves what nature needs to survive and now we are starting to pay the price.
Our wildlife is at breaking point as it gets pushed into ever-decreasing habitats, trying to survive in locations unsuitable for their needs in a desperate last wave to survive. Hedgerow removal, and chemical applications on vast intensively farmed fields, give nothing to wildlife other than starvation, sickness, and death, but it makes up around 73% of land usage in the UK, and so farming has a big role to play in natures restoration.
Nature is dying, which means so are we, yet still, we soldier on without pause to consider how our actions will affect our children and the other species we share this world with.
We desperately need a change in the way we view our relationship with nature as a whole to bring balance back. If we can work with nature rather than ignoring and fighting it that would be a good start.
Rambling Ivy, Grasses & Flowers
The rambling ivy and wildflowers look out over the depleted farmland with its lost hedgerows and barren soil. It represents the need to change our perception of what is natural in order to repair the damage we have done. Allowing nature space to ramble without the constant clearing and tidying that is so ingrained in British thinking. Can we reconnect with nature before the tipping point of no return is reached?
Putting aside the obvious suffering and stress to game birds during hunting season, the sport does much more harm to nature and our wildlife than appears on the surface.
The shooting industry is a true villain in the quest to save our wildlife. Farmed in large numbers to fuel the shooting industry, the birds are released to roam free in the countryside. They eat the food that feeds our native wildlife species. food which is already scarce. Our wildlife is literally surviving to death and the competition for food is fierce. Wild food should be for wildlife.
Scotland, unfortunately, sees a vast amount of habitat burnt each year purely for the purpose of shooting birds. This makes it impossible for other species to survive. The profit from this is very small when compared to the income that could be made in eco-tourism if they rewilded and increased biodiversity within the landscape.
It is a sad fact that farmers will kill wild predatory birds to protect the game birds they have raised just to be shot, all legal under government policy.
Change is long overdue in this industry, and there are other ways land could be used which would bring much more profit to the businesses within this industry. Although I am personally opposed to hunting I know that to save wildlife compromises may have to be made. To find out how we can restore some kind of balance I recommend reading Rebirding by Benedict MacDonald, which provides alternatives for landowners involved in hunting industries.
The Fox, The Crow, and The Magpie
If your local area has foxes, crows, and magpies it is because your wildlife is depleted and in need of help.
These generalist species thrive in areas where specialist species have been lost or are in decline due to natural habitat loss. Within 'Secret Love Affair' they remind us that manmade habitats are generally not what nature needs and if we take a look towards modern conservation, such as the rewilding project at Knepp Castle, we can truly start to understand what nature really needs.
Butterfly Layers & Crinoline Cages
The patterned skirt fabric is a symbol of the lives lost just to be pinned to paper and stored in a draw to satisfy the appetite of collectors. Unfortunately, butterfly and moth collecting are still ongoing and rare species are smuggled around the globe. I doubt it will stop until the last butterfly is taken from its flight because these collectors would find glee in knowing they owned such a specimen.
The crinoline cage, in the victorian era, was seen to represent excess, control, and the invasion of space outcasting others. Is this not how we treat nature and wildlife? For the wearer of the crinoline cage, it was freeing and sat perfectly as a symbol for women’s rights at that time; keeping men at a distance and imposing their will as they once more could move freely and gain some kind of control. Nature's plight today is very similar to this, we have stifled nature and now it is time to provide it some freedom from our controlling hands. Our mindless crusade to destroy natural spaces is killing the one thing that sustains us. To remove what supports life makes little sense. Without balance, we have no hope, and it is time to make the changes in order to safeguard future generations of people, nature, and wildlife.
The pattern on the field depicts heavily ploughed land, a vast open space, with a wash of chemicals evaporating from the surface. The sky has only one fly because when was the last time you saw an abundance of insects? The chemicals sprayed on the farmers' fields are toxic to wildlife. They kill soil microbes and insects, and the consequence to our wildlife is devastating. Without food or, with food that is toxic taken from the field, it doesn't take long for wildlife numbers to dwindle.
Modern farming plays heavily on my mind. It is my nemesis. It is the main reason for our dwindling wildlife and native habitat loss. Yet a simple solution is available, naturalised farming, where farmers work with nature rather than against it. Naturalised farming has shown to increase yields, improve farmers' profits so they no longer need subsidies, avoids the use of chemicals which in turn cleans up our health and that of rivers/soils, the list goes on. But due to farmers having little to no soil knowledge, they have become dependent on chemicals and forgotten that nature has been growing plants for millions of years without one single drop. Chemical companies sure know what they are doing, they know how to build dependency and farmers are their addicts.
With around 73% of UK land in the hands of farmers, we need them to invest in a naturalised future so we can restore the balance for future generations.