Where have all the rabbits gone? Ruth Pavey mourns loss of wildlife

Where have all the rabbits gone? Ruth Pavey mourns the loss of wildlife from our childhood as rural environment is continuously put under threat

  • Ruth Pavey’s book is an engaging follow-up memoir to A Wood Of One’s Own
  • Book notes changes she has observed since buying her wood at auction in 1999
  • She mourns the loss of the wildlife and asks — what happened to all the rabbits? 

NATURE 

DEEPER INTO THE WOOD  

by Ruth Pavey (Duckworth £14.99, 256 pp)    

When I first read about Ruth Pavey’s struggles with her four-acre Somerset Wood and admired her pioneering spirit, I secretly wondered if she would stay the course.

That was back in 2017 — and yes, the writer is still shuttling back and forth from London to that misty, watery area of strange beauty called The Levels.

She describes herself as the ‘part-time guardian’ of the small, steep wood in the county where she was born.

Ruth Pavey’s (pictured) latest book, Deeper Into The Wood, is an engaging follow-up memoir to A Wood Of One’s Own and notes changes she has observed since buying her wood in 1999

Those of us lucky enough to be custodians of land and trees know full well that the fascination — like the work — is endless. So Ruth Pavey is still uncovering the mysteries of her wood with a sense of adventure that would do credit to Christopher Robin.

And her latest question is — what happened to all the rabbits? This engaging follow-up memoir to A Wood Of One’s Own takes us back to find out. Engaging Pavey leads us on a virtual tour of her wood from New Year through until the next Winter Solstice: ‘Four seasons passing through a Somerset wood.’

She is a realist (you don’t do all that driving to and from the West Country without having a good deal of time to think), and with good reason: the changes she has observed since first buying her wood at auction in 1999 have been noted by all naturalists and nature writers.

Our precious rural environment is continuously under threat, and no wonder many of us lose sleep when politicians promise to ‘build, build, build’.

She mourns the loss of the wildlife from our childhood as rural environment is continuously put under threat and asks — what happened to all the rabbits?

Every new-build on green fields destroys myriad lives.

While the apples still flourish in the old orchard, Pavey mourns the loss of the wildlife of our childhood: ‘If I were a child now I, might grow up thinking that moths and butterflies are meant to come in ones.’

So back to the rabbits. Pavey noticed she just wasn’t seeing them any more — and from our own patch of land on the Somerset/Gloucestershire border, I’d say the same.

Of course, bunnies were a nuisance in Mr McGregor’s lettuce patch, yet Peter Rabbit, the Velveteen Rabbit, Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend and all the denizens of Watership Down are beloved for very good reasons. 

Although Pavey used to protect her trees against the rabbits living in the warren near her pond, she loved them and never took them for granted. Then there were none — bar the odd sighting of a sick animal.

She says that while this global problem has to be tackled on a large scale, in the meantime small plots like hers can be loved and cared for and anyone can help by encouraging insect life

She writes: ‘It was already worrying that on my watch there appeared to be fewer insects, small birds and bats than in 1999.

‘If the rabbits could vanish, as it seemed overnight, a louder alarm bell was ringing.’

Be assured, this delightfully discursive account of a year in the life of the wood is not a nature misery memoir, for Pavey celebrates her patch. The elegiac note sounds throughout. And the reasons for the ‘disappearance of species’? Same old, same old: ‘The destruction of natural habitats, the effects of intensive agriculture, and the international trade in live plants and animals’ — which can, of course, import disease and destructive foreign species.

So it goes on — a seemingly unstoppable cycle of loss. Yet, in the end, Pavey’s natural equanimity shines through.

Yes, this global problem has to be tackled on a large scale, she says, but in the meantime small plots like hers can be loved and cared for. And anyone can help — by encouraging insect life.

You don’t need a wood in Somerset to let plants grow tall in pots and encourage ‘the flow of life to continue’.

Source: Read Full Article