[Last of this week's front-loaded posts]
It is always amazing to me that there is anything left for the wildlife to eat out there by this time of year. You'd think the cupboard would be bare after four months of constant winter foraging, but -- thankfully -- it never is, quite. Even in an agricultural landscape like the one above (Test Valley near Mottisfont) -- systematically strip-mined of vegetation by the plough, strung with high-tension electricity cables, and planted with inedible and alien monoculture species like wheat and barley -- the remaining trees and hedgerows provide enough food and shelter.
In fact, incredibly, there are now thought to be more deer at large in Britain than at any time since the last Ice Age. It's true, you do see them everywhere, stood in the middle of fields with ears pricked as your train rattles by. We hear them barking at night in our suburban corner of the South Coast conurbation, and a few years ago, a female Roe Deer appeared looking speculatively over our garden wall. Venison steaks and sausages regularly appear in most supermarkets.
Most wild creatures seem to have an inbuilt restraint that prevents them from scoffing the lot, when confronted by a hedge full of ripe berries. They must have been pleasantly surprised about 10,000 years ago, when those greedy two-legged monkeys, with their sharp eyes, baskets and digging sticks, stopped competing for a limited supply of seasonal treats, and started planting their own.