We must find a comfortable compromise to protect integrity of our towpaths
There’s a bit of a debate going on about wildlife and the rights and wrongs of manicured towpaths right now. It’s an interesting question.
When I were a lad in Branston (no, not Braunston, it’s near Burton upon Trent on the Trent & Mersey) I used to love playing around the lock. The lock-keeper (like most of them) was rightly proud of his cottage and surroundings; the grass was cut regularly, flowers bloomed and the gates were always well painted and clean.
But if you explored along the towpath the manicured neatness became more wild, which to an eight-year-old was excellent (mind you, the lock-keeper’s butterfly collection was fascinating, too).
It wasn’t a jungle as such, but there could have been apaches hiding in the lush bushes and you could creep up on birds, frogs and all sorts of wildlife in the long grass. And when it came to time to go home you could still ride your bike back along the towpath in time to avoid a telling- off.
Memories might often be sepia tinted, but there seemed to be a pretty good balance back then and what’s needed now is careful management and a balance between the two.
So no bowling greens stretching for miles, or acres of brambles blocking the middle of the towpath.