What does it mean to be a custodian? It means having my eyes opened and my hackles raised enough to act. A small group – 10 of us by the time we left the Angel at Long Ashton walked the land last Saturday between Long Ashton and Highridge Common across which a new road is threatened.

Being a custodian means walking the land and letting the land walk into my imagination-and heart. After a footbridge over the A38, along which blinkered (literally – not noticing what’s to either side) goal-set car drivers sped, we passed a cow in great distress in the middle of calving or so it seemed to us. We were able to alert the farmer who came promptly.

In a field by a business park near Parsonage farm we passed a man sawing up branches of an oak tree burnt out by vandals, for his winter fuel. I saw how we need ‘greenbelt’ to be a belt which protects nature from boredom’s fruits.

I’d never heard of Colliter’s Brook and when I saw it hiding and glinting amongst mature oak trees I could see how a new road could devastate. As if to prove the point a JCB sat alone and potent at the end of the Long Ashton Landfill entrance drive.

I’d never seen the Long Ashton landfill from the vantage point of a walker along its edge. Densely planted saplings and reedbeds showed what, over time, can be done to regenerate damaged land. Time and the leaving of nature to do its work. What hope does nature have when restless development pushes her back repeatedly? The road will degenerate land and allow housing and business development up to its edge.

On a field’s sloping edge we stopped to allow my 18 month old daughter Zoe to stretch her legs. Aptly named Hanging Wood burnished its early autumn shaggy tree crowns from the valley side opposite as one of the party insisted we do an impromptu play reading. This was a natural ampitheatre. It was about the fight between a clergyman and people of the parish over ownership of a church hall. It was a fitting theme as we contemplated the theft of the land we were walking through. Because, though technically some land is private and some public and maps can be drawn demarcating what is what, in the human soul it is all common land to which we belong. (And, as Ecoshow walkers, the reading of a play in nature reminded me how the arts can enhance custodianship.)

That is ultimately what we are as custodians, creatures of nature acknowledging our dependence on her and reminding others of the respect she is due. It is from that respect that we derive our real wealth, not as creatures who, like the car drivers we passed rarely step out of their mental tin boxes. We delude ourselves that we’reoutside nature. And from that place we endlessly screw her to extract the last drip of imagined wealth we call ‘development opportunity’.

The opportunity is to stop expansion, to stop the South Bristol Link Road. Picking over more carefully what we humans have already turfed over, within existing urban settings, should be our focus. And work with nature, like the landfill planters, the dairy farmer, the winter fuel gatherer and the thespian walkers, to take care of the urban edge.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Liz Ellis wrote:

    Might I add, that the damage to the existing communities built on farm land between the 1930’s and 1960’s will suffer the greatest, from the road in the short term. Noise, worsened air pollution, road safety, local traffic flow, disrupted footpaths, pavements, bus services, greenspace. Although the green belt in itself is of massive value and the impact of it’s loss for city and country dwellers is incalculable.

    There are large communities in South West Bristol that experience relative peace despite their isolation from the city centre. This road, of which half it’s length as the crow flies, is in a suburban area within the city boundaries, will damage communities and affect the lives of people of ages. With schools and elderly persons accommodation and family homes immediately next to the land through which the road will be driven, it will make people’s lives a misery.


  2. This is an ecoshow comment on the CFP under threat.


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