My Job and That of the Countryside Rangers in the Mid-bleak Winter.

Winter scene

Source

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

" IN THE BLEAK MID-WINTER -ICY WINDS DOTH BLOW"

Here in West Lancashire, in the north west of England temperatures have plummeted to -7C which has lasted for some nights together. { I know fellow Hubbers in other parts of northern and eastern Europe will consider this relatively mild } but for us it is, when the chill factor of the easterly wind is taken into account it is colder still. Then the first significant snow fall occurred, again an unusual experience, for we are generally very lucky and only suffer a dusting of snow in most years, even when all around us snow has fallen heavily. We are situated between the mountains of north Wales and the Pennines, thus protected from the worst of winter's onslaught.

However, come hail or snow, the countryside rangers have to patrol the countryside to see that all is well. As a volunteer ranger { West Lancashire District Countryside Ranger service} one of my duties is to keep an eye on the local lake. Duties include making sure that the outflow pipe { large enough for a man to crawl through } is taking the excess water away and has not been blocked by debris. That trees have not succumbed to the weather, that the pathways are accessible and that wildlife is not being abused, ie, injuries natural or other wise.

looking through the window at the cold white world outside does not get the job done. So forsaking my warm haven I ventured out to become acquainted with winter's icy grip. The lake is situated within a 5 minute walking distance from our cottage. Winter can weigh heavy on the spirit if one lets it. Entering on to the environs of the lake the cutting winds enhanced the frosty bleakness of the fields and woods. The rough grasses were loaded with frosty crystals, the whole ambiance was cold and hostile, a strange sense of desolation. Yet it has a beauty all of its own, Mother Nature's artistry at work, her eye for detail in winter as acute as her eye for detail in summer.

All seemed well at the location. Passing a long woodland ride I heard the repetitive strident notes of the song thrush falling from the trees, I could not see the singer. It was not the vibrant notes he will render in the spring time, but I silently thanked him for lifting spirits and for providing me with warmer thoughts of spring far away.

In harsh winters scarce food supplies coupled with sub-zero temperatures make life an endurance test for all animals living in the countryside. In this locality the dearth food supplies are supplemented from food left by visitors to the location, many of whom , visit on a daily basis. The water of the lake was frozen locked in an icy prison, which gives me a potential problem as the temperatures rise. Children love to throw branches and dead wood along the surface of the ice to watch it slide along the icy surface. So much so that the surface can be filled with such items. However, when the water is released from its icy prison all the debris is carried towards the outflow pipe situated at the northern end of the lake. The pipe has vertical metal bars to stop inquisitive children from entering the pipe. Thus the branches and other floating rubbish will often get trapped, and the excess water can not escape. It can in certain circumstances cause flooding as the water comes over the banks of the lake.

I suppose this problem is an acceptable problem, kids will be kids and as long as the pipe is kept clear there is no real harm done.

Winter images

The lake in its icy prison.
The lake in its icy prison.
Snow and frost cloak the woods
Snow and frost cloak the woods

I Digress---

Digressing, it brought to mind more serious problems we face on an annual basis, particularly through the months of summer. The cause of our problems is litter,particularly discarded bottles and cans. I recalled at least five incidents that took place within a week of each other last summer, where wildlife suffered through this anti-social behaviour.

Two incidents involved discarded fishing line, the first affecting a mute swan.. The line, complete with hook, had become lodged in the birds bill. During its struggle to free itself, the line got entangled around its neck and back before finally wrapping itself around its leg just above the foot. As the swan stretched its long neck in a vain attempt to  to free the line, it only served to pull its leg high over its back. It was a distressing sight, but it was to far from the bank for me to assist. I called the R.S.P.C.A., and fortunately for the swan they attended promptly and dealt with the situation quickly and efficiently to free the bird.

The second incident concerned a coot whose leg had somehow become tightly bound by fishing line. It is assumed that this caused circularity problems which led to the leg becoming useless on land. The creature made for a pathetic sight as it limped around. However, attempts to catch it failed, as its leg did not impede its progress once it entered the water.

Two separate  incidents involved mallards and the plastic ring tops that hold beer cans together, had been thrown into the water. The duck had pushed its head through one of the circular plastic rings, half of which had got trapped in its bill, while the remainder fell across its back. because ducks are strong flyer's and resist all attempts of help, it took several weeks before it became weak enough to be caught and finally released. Glass bottles, especially those with long, narrow necks, are potential death traps to small mammals, such as shrews. Once they have entered they are unable to get out again, and these tiny creatures starve to death or dehydrate in the summer sun. If the bottles become broken they are a hazard to all wildlife, domestic animals and to children. Glass in particular can also be a potential fire risk reflecting the heat of the sun on to tinder dry vegetation. The sad fact is that with a little more consideration, all of these incidents would and should have been prevented.

Back to the Present---

Back to the present, I continued along the path meandering through naked trees observing a hoar frost on the low crouching thickets, as the wind began to hurl a flurry of snow across the landscape. The cold seemed to become more intense and uncompromising, it was time to return to my warm haven- just a five minute walk away.

The Graceful swan

These beautiful birds are at risk from discarded fishing lines. Photograph by Sanchen.
These beautiful birds are at risk from discarded fishing lines. Photograph by Sanchen.
water from the outflow pipe falls down to a stream that carries excess water away.
water from the outflow pipe falls down to a stream that carries excess water away.
The lake in autumn
The lake in autumn

More by this Author


Comments 18 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you IzzyM for your kind words.

Hi Money Glitch nice to meet you. I hope you are right and people would be a little more thoughtful. Thank you for reading.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you IzzyM for your kind words.

Hi Money Glitch nice to meet you. I hope you are right and people would be a little more thoughtful. Thank you for reading.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Teresa thank you.


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Mother Nature takes care of her own so splendidly, it's too bad that human-kind has not learned to mimic what she teaches us. I'm hoping that people will become more aware of what leaving things like fishing lines, cans, plastic, etc. does to the wild life.


IzzyM profile image

IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

Excellent hub again, DAL:)

Good job you are doing, both as a writer and as a ranger:)


Teresa Laurente profile image

Teresa Laurente 6 years ago from San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A.

Beautifully written. Keep on. More power. I like your thoughts. Take care.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Poet. I can only take the credit for choosing this picture. The credit for this beautiful photograph belongs to Sanchen.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

You have done the swan justice. The words are as beautiful as the swan.


poetlorraine 6 years ago

http://hubpages.com/literature/The-Swan

i have written a poem around the picture of the swan, sincerely hope you like it,,,,, your pictures are so inspirational


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

coverley1 thank you for visiting,and for your comments. There is a picture of a coot on the hub-NOTES FROM A LANCASHIRE COUNTRYMAN-5


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

coverley1 thank you for visiting,and for your comments.


coverley1 profile image

coverley1 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

Very descriptive emotive writing....how cruel we humans can be in our ignorance. I am going to find out what a coot and a shrew are, I am amazed at myself for not knowing them. Thanks again for your Hubs and the ones to follow....Cheers


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you for your visit and comments, 2uesday, The vast majority of anglers are well behaved, indeed many of them are conservationists and they look after their riparian habitat, it is only the mindless few that cause these problems.


2uesday profile image

2uesday 6 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

Good photos and an interesting page to read. I can never understand how fishermen who must sit there with the beauty of the countryside around them while they fish; can be so thoughtless about the effects they have on swans and other birds. Looking forward to reading more in future.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thank you jayjay40 for reading the hub. nice to meet you.

Unfortunately this is not a one off experience and carelessness may be encountered at all our sites.


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

A lovely hub, I felt for the poor birds with the fishing line, how can people be so thoughtless


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Thanks for your most appreciated comments. Swans are beautiful birds. The hubs will keep coming. So glad you enjoy them.


poetlorraine 6 years ago

Your work is absolutely beautiful, the picture of the swan magnificent, i could buy your book if you put one together to let me know if you do. Can't tell you how nice is it is to see a little bit of home, when you are in a different country, Keep these hubs coming,

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