And yet the brook babbles on

The brook running along the boundary of Holly Hayes is integral to its social history and was once an important link in its natural history or eco-system.

For some, a small group of locals who remember its original course through pasture before it entered the woodland, there are memories of long summer days playing along its twisting course and in the clean, cooling water. Legends of giant crayfish and stories of trout that got away. Early maps show the sheep wash and a cottage by the pond. Black and white photos show cattle enjoying the crisp grasses growing on its banks and children gazing at the water from a bridge.

Today, new memories are made as children explore the course of the water and paddle through the shallows, the mid-summer drought reducing the flow to a trickle where autumns storms will send a torrent to wash out the bank, exposing more tree roots and carrying huge rocks further downstream.

If only our activity had been limited to exploring and playing along the course, to fishing in the pond and to lifting stones to find what creatures make their home in the eternal water. But no, man’s ingenuity has condemned even this shy beck to an existence of servitude. Piping and culverting its course, fettering its flow, straightening its oxbow bends to accommodate industry and dwellings.

Then as a final death blow to its wild inhabitants, we pump our raw sewage into its artery. And yet, the brook babbles on, keeping its secrets. Washing over the detritus of human existence, the building bricks, concrete, dumped scrap and plastic waste, gradually pushing it down stream or spewing it into the already full bowl of the former pond.

Now, on a “slow news day”, we might catch a report of the millions of gallons of poison and human waste we pour into our rivers each day and “think scorn upon it” (as might the Bard himself) whilst we continue to fund the disaster via Direct Debit.

One day, after we are gone, the remains of our homes reclaimed by nature, asphalt shattered by emerging forest, the brook will breathe again. The water will run clear once more, the aquatic world will return, storm flow will break free of its binding and the stream will once again make its own way across a new landscape.

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