This year I’ve lost three very dear friends. They had an annoying habit of waking me up early in the morning with their squabbling but I’ve fond memories of our long relaxing swims together on sunny afternoons. They would spend the winter in warmer climes, but return without fail in the early spring. Except for this year. I’ve no idea of their fate. Perhaps they didn’t make it to their haven in the south, perhaps they perished on the way back. Or perhaps they simply tired of the unremitting sadness of their life in Grange-over-Sands. Every year the female (she had two mates) would produce a dozen or more ducklings; every year her newborn fledglings would be taken within 48 hours of their birth by one or more of the several predators at hand – a cat, a crow, a magpie or a jay.
The cruelty of the natural world came to mind when I read of the campaign by a band of sentimental fools who have said they’ll boycott the Lake District in protest at the National Park’s decision to cull some of the Canada Geese who are getting too numerous and are causing environmental damage around Lake Windermere. The protestors don’t understand that if you live in the countryside, death is an everyday occurrence. Here at Yewbarrow House I’ve seen a peregrine swoop down and kill a wood pigeon, leaving blood and feathers all over the lawn; I’ve seen a cat grab a baby rabbit and kill it by repeatedly smashing its head on the stone path; I’ve seen the baby ducklings picked off one by one by a jay. The countryside isn’t for the squeamish, and it might be a good idea if the protestors, the next time they come to the Lake District were to open their eyes and see what is happening all around them.