Spring primroses

My morning/evening walks take me onto Harwell Campus, which is a place with an interesting history. It was an RAF base (some of the gliders launched from here for the D-Day assault in WW2), and since then has been home to various scientific endeavours. These days it’s the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and a hub for space-oriented business.

At some point there was some housing which has been removed, and the ground left undisturbed, which means the plantlife is… odd. There’s an abundance of plants that could be wild, or could be feral, growing alongside oversized shrubs which were clearly once in someone’s garden. There are lots of birds (including woodpeckers and red kites), squirrels, rabbits, badgers and deer, with ducks on the fire ponds. It’s all set against a backdrop of scientific buildings – the iconic ring of the Diamond Light source, ESA’s multicoloured UK HQ, and a satellite dish that’s part of the downlink for the Copernicus project, collecting data from the Sentinel Earth observation satellites.

In an effort to preserve the things I see on a daily basis, for the last year or so I have been doing occasional litter picking. I don’t like the thought of the squirrels having to dig through trash to find their buried nuts.

Over the weekend, Travellers have moved in.

I love diversity. I love learning about other cultures. I would never try and eradicate someone’s way of life because it doesn’t fit entirely comfortably with my own. I know that there are political issues surrounding Travellers, and that there are not enough stopping places where they are welcome. I’ve heard the stories about racism and discrimination against them.

I’ve also heard the other side, the stories about crime, litter and animal cruelty.

I was prepared to give the Travellers the benefit of the doubt. It’s not like they’re going to be here long – campus security will take care of moving them on in due course, as the legal cogs grind away. Also, Harwell has a history of nuclear experiments and is patrolled by armed police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. They drive past my house on a regular basis.

However… today my morning walk shows me that, in the space of two days, the Travellers have already trashed the place. There’s rubbish strewn in the meadow where the bunnies live. The squirrels will be navigating piles of human waste as they forage for food. On my way home their dogs got loose and tried to chase me off, barking.

So now I feel violated. I feel as though my litter picking efforts have been completely in vain. I feel as though I have to change my route, to avoid them until they’ve gone.

White violet

When they’re gone, other people will clean up the mess they’ve left behind. Nature will do her best to erase any evidence they were here. But she and I have long memories, and those will take some time to fade.