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 Hi Mary,
 
Thanks for posting my piece. I read down your latest columns and saw that someone was rightly complaining about the anti-environmental impacts of the agri-environment schemes.
 
Funnily enough , I had just been moved to write to Radio 4 about my own observations on this which represent another slant on this story.
 
Please feel free to use some quotes from below , when you have a lull in your news coverage. Its an ongoing subject.
 
Best,
 
mark
 
 
 
                                                                             High Barn farm,
                                                                             Elworthy,
                                                                             Lydeard st Lawrence,
                                                                             Taunton,
                                                                             Somerset,
                                                                             TA43PX
 
                                                                              Tel; 01984 656832.
 
Dear Open Country,          
 
I am a long established mixed organic family farmer of 30 years standing and am fortunate enough to farm in one of the last remaining bastions of unadulterated rural England - in West Somerset. We have 90 acres under our ownership.
 
I have become increasingly concerned over the actual beneficial impacts which the new Agri-environment schemes are reaping on the rural ecosystems. In fact, my observations indicate that these schemes are having a negative effect on the environment so far.
 
As you are aware, over the years the commercially orientated farmers amongst the rural community have relentlessly removed hedges, ponds and any areas of natural wilderness that have got in the way of efficient food production and profitability. However , odd acre pockets on their farms have escaped this drive for so called progress, simply because they have either been too wet or steep a gradient for food production. In this respect , these sacred corners  were fortunately spared the bulldozer and have therefore been 'written off' as wasteland and fortunately  left to live on as enchanted wildernesses - where natural chaos has been allowed to rule the day. These 'magical' pockets on these commercial farms , in combination with the remaining traditional farms,  have therefore provided us with an aesthetic backbone of  traditional countryside that has made life worth living for those of us who thrive off the natural experience.
 
But , sadly, the upshot of these recent Agri-environment schemes is that the commercial farmers are jumping for every penny that they can get under the new system. In this respect, they are signing up these last remaining unadulterated corners on their farms for development under these schemes. The result is totally devastating.   
 
I own two blocks of land four miles apart here in somerset, and driving between my two holdings I have witnessed four such acts of eco-barbarism  that have been committed on these paradise corners over the last six months - under the new grant aid !! One such act involved the erasure of a quarter acre jungle of foliage around a pond which included the removal of willow and other trees . All that's left is a brand new barbed wire fence which replaces the thicket ( the arsenic treated fence posts must be polluting the pond ) and four or five regimentally spaced spindly trees  ( to get their 'points' payment on the new scheme ) which must represent all that is left over from the four or five hundred sapling trees which used to be growing in this secluded corner . Knowing what used to be there, I felt truly nauseated as i drove past .
 
A couple of miles down the road in Westleigh hamlet, an entire traditional farm which used to be one of the most enchanting olde English 'laurie Lee'-like farms alive in the UK , is currently being transmutated by the agri-environment scheme into a kitsched up countryside that is now bereft of any element of nature spirit. The new city based landowners ( an all too common trend in the countryside these days )  seem to have imported their neurotic compulsion to erase every last iota of natural nasty that is getting in their way - progress for progress sake. They have even herbicided along the old thicket lines and banks to make certain of a total overkill of vegetation where the new barbed wire fences have been erected .  I cannot understand it . Furthermore, this kind of stereotyped , symmetrical landscape often ironically fails to serve in the best interests of agricultural well being anyway- for a variety of reasons which i will not go into here.
 
 These "improvements" are therefore not moving our countryside forwards -from an environmental perspective. They are merely advancing us towards a time when our natural heritage will be wholly annihilated. We should revert this trend and allow these natural corners to evolve for themselves and cease to arrogantly interfere with them any more. 
 
In this respect , why can't these public funded payments go to farmers for simply keeping those sacred corners alive and uncontaminated by humanity - as they always have been?  I want our children to have those aesthetical rustic experiences that made such an impression upon me during my childhood . Those memories have acted as such a positive inspiration throughout my life so far . 
 
Hope you can cover this disturbing facet of these new agri-environment schemes, before the problem becomes too rampant . 
 
Best wishes,
 
Mark Purdey.