The Society For The Preservation of Nothing Very Special

I have been a member of The National Trust for nearly a year now, and I've always enjoyed their seasonal magazine- mostly because it contains one of the few crosswords I can complete! Sadly, the Autumn 2011 edition only just arrived, so despite being out of date, there was a fascinating article by Simon Barnes, a journalist who writes a regular Wildlife Column in The Times. In this article he suggests that we become active members of the "Society For The Preservation of Nothing Very Special" - a concept he believes will raise awareness of the naturally brilliant places that we take for granted every day WITHOUT making them "Special" and therefore different to the norm.

"Special" usually means rare or endangered - why would we want this for our favourite places?

Simon writes:
"That's why the SPNVP is so important, it seeks to protect living things and living places before they get special. While we still have the privilege of having them on a routine take-'em for granted" basis; while they are still part of the daily life of this country, rather than something you make a pilgrimage for. The country is full of little patches of this and expanses of that, places where you can find small brown birds and not very special butterflies...just the place for running a firghtfully quick train or putting up more houses. Why worry about these places? Plenty more where they come from"

We all have these little places. Personally, my first lies between Ash Vale and Brookwood, along the railway line (I often see such places out of train windows - adds to the moment, the fact I can't just get out and touch them!). There is some ancient woodland running by the tracks, full of broken trees, overgrown brambles and rickity wooden boundaries. Nothing amazing, quite drab really. Sometimes I see soldiers on training (very common sight around the area) other times a very contented fox curls up and watches the trains zoom by. I only see the spot for 5-10 seconds, and yet for me, its the highlight of my long journey to and from Kent! I'm sure many commuters from the Surrey/Hampshire area will tell you all they see along 80% of their commute is old trees/woodland/scrubland, so what makes it any different? And as for the fox, the plague of Suburbia's front lawns and nothing else right? I don't mind this,  as for me, those old trees by all my local railtrack and so-called "vermin" couldn't be more engaging. 

My second example, is the tall (very ugly!) half-dead hedge that runs alongside my work building in Farnham, around the back of the Post Office Depot. When i finish work around 4.30, I walk past, and the hedge is absolutely full of sparrows which are singing at the very top of their voices, making the hedge sway as they jostle about for roosting room! It only occurs for about 15 minutes, then you wouldn't even know they were there. Any town has these little brown birds fighting with the Pigeons over scraps, but at this moment, their chirping is more exciting than any of the rarer birds calls you could hear at any "special" bird watching location. Their population has already declined rapidly over the last 50 years, but thankfully they aren't deemed too "Special" yet, sadly I predict that in my lifetime, they will be.

Simon continues:

"When we think of the Natural World, we don't think with our 21st century emailing, facebooking heads on. We think with our ancient atavistic selves: as if we were still at war with hostile nature and had to fight every step of the way to keep civilisation on track. We won that war a long time ago But we are continuing, almost without noticing, a frightfully fast programme of destruction and extinction. And always, the first places to go are Nothing Very Special"

He has decided the logo for SPNVS will be the cuckoo - a bird that was once heard everywhere all the time, got taken for granted or viewed as an ugly nuisance and a bully, now has made the sad progression to "specialness" - which is a terrible shame.

With the plans for more high-speed trains, housing developments and of course all the work thats already been done on the Olympic sites around England, I think there's a lot of work to be done. We want plenty of "take'em for granted" natural occurances in our lifetimes thank you very much!

I'm sure this article will stir up similar happy locations with you! Please do add any thoughts into the comments for this post, I'd love to know!

"We all must fight with all we have, green in tooth and claw, for Nothing Very Special".

Thanks for reading!


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