I live beside a golf course, close to a river. To get to my home, a flat in a complex of converted farm buildings, I must drive or walk half a mile through sculpted grasslands maintained by staff on tractors and golf buggies. Among the links are four small lakes and a couple of ponds. It’s a place of transition, an edgeland of sorts.
For an environment that is so heavily managed there is a surprising variety of wildlife. I have observed with no great effort over fifty species of bird. On top of that I have seen roe deer, muntjac, foxes, hare and even, once, an otter. In the river below are barbel, chub, pike, perch, zander, and roach.
Golf courses are examples of the kind of edgelands written about by Marion Shoard, Michael Symonds- Roberts and Paul Farley, and many others who are now keen to explore these often overlooked but surprisingly rich areas that act as barometers of our relationships with nature, being neither rural nor urban. Marion Shoard describes them as “an interfacial rim…characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant, office parks and gypsy encampments, golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy farmland.”
The golf course beside which I live isn’t as rough as these. In fact it is carefully managed, and in a beautiful location. But it is still an edgeland, albeit a rich cousin to these other places.
Whichever way you look at it, the location of an ‘edge’ between rural and urban is blurred, and there is very little if any land that is not somehow manufactured. Much is written and said about the decline of wildlife as a result of modern farming and human habitation. But is it all so bad?
In places, yes: the evidence is irrefutable. But I have a friend, a retired falconer, who knows and has seen more than most. Things go in cycles, he says; nature has a way of restoring itself. There’s no room for complacency, but maybe there is also room for hope that in unexpected places resurrections can and do happen. Some of the richest environments for wild flowers, birds and small mammals can be roadside verges, and there are signs that some councils have caught on and are leaving them untended for longer.