DOWN WITH WILDING
The Destructive Domestication of
Wormwood Scrubs Common,
First of all it is best to go to the final section of the previous web to get something of an idea of what we did (and are still doing) in Martin Bell's Wood on Wormwood Scrubs Common. The url is as follows......
The above text ends with the following quote: "However, the ins-and-outs of this experiment especially in Martin Bell’s Wood needs an in-depth explanation though alas all that remains for another day. …….. For sure – reinforcing what was said in the introduction - much of this tract may seem haphazard, pointlessly wide-ranging even disconnected, but isn’t this practically perhaps how a revolutionary totality possibly might unfold in real life? Apropos the aforementioned return of the Icteric terrills post the nearby Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 something real bad happened. Substitute, pre-fabricated school buildings were erected on a nature-rich occasional car park adjacent to Martin Bell’s Wood which destroyed a remarkable swathe of bee orchards, unique for inner London. In response we handed out a leaflet Destruction by Aesthetics which mentioning the bee orchids also alludes to Dmitry Pisarev –our old friend from 50 years ago whose name again turned up in our furious tracts to Tate Modern authorities regarding the jailing of Alexander Art".
Photos Below: Alas, alas, once upon a time an amazing strand of bee orchids existed on one side of the rough, shale ground that formed the base of a rudimentary car park at the Scrubs Lane end of Martin Bell’s Wood adjacent to Woodman’s Mews, a low rise, somewhat mini-Brutalist council tenement for mainly elderly residents. It was undoubtedly the finest strand of bee orchids in West London. The rough pitted surface had been deliberately left in this condition precisely because it covered a somewhat turbulent artesian well where not easily controllable water welled up in rainy weather from caverns below. Amazingly, H & F council officials had over the years shown surprising practical intelligence and sensitivity leaving the terrain in this condition much to the chagrin of some bureaucrats who wanted the place paved making way for a typically sleek car park and, what really mattered...... a subsequent money spinner! We had run-ins with these fascitoid creeps who tore down our pouches pointing out what natural wonders could be found here (see photo below). Nonetheless these horror stories were frightened of really confronting us. However, not to worry, as shortly the horrendous fire at nearby Grenfell Tower in June 2017 came to their assistance. K & C council desperately needed to find a place to re-house the Grenfell Academy next to the Tower and H & F gladly obliged by lending out this amazing space for free. What a magnanimous gesture for the benefits of the MSM publicity machine! Rather than assemble some prefabricated cabins as a substitute, temporary makeshift school on some useless horticulture-ised mini park in the richer up-market suburbia-like domiciles adjacent to Holland Park Avenue, officialdom chose ECOCIDE on a down home, more working class space! Moreover, no official eco organisation protested this abomination and neither did the council’s bio-diversity maestro on his 100k a year. Quel surprise!
Above: Examples of the bee orchids in Wormwood Scrubs dirt car park
Above: The now destroyed green sward where lots of bee orchids once flourished plus Gerard Manley Hopkins
In response to the destruction of the car park the following two longish leaflets published here were handed out – admittedly in limited supply – to a number of people who frequent “The Scrubs”. We also produced two smaller leaflets that ended up as pouches and are reproduced elsewhere on the RAP web. Interestingly one relates to the destruction of Mitre Bridge another relating to the destruction of the Small Blue butterfly on Woolley Colliery in West Yorkshire got quoted at length on online threads beneath two Patrick Barkham articles in The Guardian. Barkham is of course an official nature correspondent for The Graun and as such is utterly unsympathetic to any autonomous eco intervention always when push comes to shove backing a pathetic status quo which he then has some misgivings about and in response slightly back tracks... Anyway the outcome has been that Barkham no longer allows threads to garnish his journalese, those possibly nasty, nasty threads that might sully his middle-of-the-roadism. As an example of his mealy-mouthed backtracking, recently he interviewed a former acquaintance of ours who has since died of cancer, name of Michael White who among other things commendably tried to introduce the long lost Mazarine Blue back onto a site in Nottinghamshire. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/13/maverick-rewilders-endangered-species-extinction-conservation-uk-wildlife Martin was hands on practically with nature and really enjoyed our Dialectical Butterflies site which has –through no fault of our own – been sadly deleted and can only be accessed through The Wayback Machine......
We were the only individuals to LOUDLY get angry about this ecocidal act. And because no one else bothered over a year later Hammersmith & Fulham council along with the support of local eco officialdom feeling emboldoned went ahead with the destruction of Mitre Bridge a little farther up Scrubs Lane towards Willesden. Various pouches around Mire Bridge - and elsewhere on the Scrubs explaining what a remarkably natural glade it was - and most likely the richest insect glade in inner London - had been placed on suitable fences, lamp posts,etc, but they were utterly ignored.
Below: Two photos of Mitre Bridge in its former glory covered in birds foot trefoil and kidney vetch
In 2018 the Mitre Bridge site was utterly destroyed so a canteen facility - housed in a container - could be located for the use ofvarious construction workers during meal breaks. Showing sensitivity (!!) the colour of the container HAD TO BE GREEN OF COURSE. Later the area became heavily policed with a remote voice recoder declaring any intruder to be "a criminal trespasser".. A little later, Richard Gill the new Scrubs 'eco' supremo said there should be some "mitigation" regarding this truly criminal act of ecocide. What he really meant was there needed to be some "Walter Mitty-gation".......
Above: Mitre Bridge destruction plus canteen facility followed by the barefaced promo greenwash lies of H&F Council
Above: Photos of the Dingy Skipper at Mitre Bridge where the butterfly thrived. Elsewhere on the Common the butterfly is having a hard time as it tends to prefer the corniculatus birds foot trefoil to the more water resistant peduculatus variety. In 2020 a lot of corniculatus was destroyed by spraying with glyphosate. This was a H &F Council initiative speared-headed by the bio-diversity officer to get rid of non-existent Giant Hogweed when what was killed off were rather largish specimens of Field Hogweed, a plant which is edible even favoured by some of London's hip so-called 'creative' foody eateries.....
Above: Spot the Mitre Bridge Green Hairstreak if you can! Alas now utterly destroyed seeing its other stronghold in Chat's Paddock had over the years allowed to become thoroughly overgrown with rampaging massed bramble thickets...
Above: The Jersey Tiger at Mitre Bridge. The typical reddish underwing Jersey Tiger is very jumpy though surprizingly the rarer yellow underwing varity - ab.lutescens - seems really placid in comparison....
Above: One of the UK's rarest wild flowers, Greater Yellow Rattle at Mitre Bridge (Definitely can't equal a canteen...)
Above: The Small Blue at Mitre Bridge. Now obliterated. As we explained on various pouches distributed largely throughout Martin Bell's Wood the butterfly - possibly a maverick Wildlife Trust introduction during the 1990s - enjoyed the sparse, dry terrain of Mitre Bridge. Since then we have tried to save the creature by constructing a number of French-like terrilles elsewhere on Wormwood Scrubs Common and on which its foodplant. kidney vetch, now thrives. But it's a tough job........ These photos are merely a few examples of what once could be found at Mitre Bridge, not forgetting the many buddleia bushes which attracted the attention of the Dark Green Fritillary and the Silver Washed Fritillary. These powerful flyers only needed to make a few seconds hop, skip and a jump from the violet clumps strewn throughout Martin Bell's Wood.
We were hopeful that a book or booklet – but anyway something in dead tree format - would be forthcoming on the fight to save Wormwood Scrubs from immanent gentrification but so far we’ve had no luck in an increasingly dismal and wretchedly backward UK. But then, lo and behold, a good guy - Dr woooo in Australia - stepped in asking us for some no holds barred contributions to a project he was engaged in as over a period of time I had sent him a number of emails going into some detail regarding The Battle of the Scrubs and his replies were all very encouraging. The outcome so far has been two interesting anarcho-eco compilations titled Beyond The Dark Horizon Vol 1 &2. As yet they remain in PDF format until sufficient money is raised to realise them as good, old fashioned books. These proposed books also include two interesting articles from Miguel Amoros and the compatriot of Jaime Semprun’s Enclyclopedie des Nuisances groupuscule, and thus the old connection from the days of Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy again sees a flicker of light... These PDFs can be viewed at......
v Below: Further various lovelies that fly in and among Wormwood Scrubs Common.
Marbled White with Wormwood Scrubs prison in background Brown Hairstreak on Gelder Rose, Martin Bell's Wood
Above: Small Blue in Martin Bell's Wood Above: Rare Wasp Spider in Martin Bell's Wood
Having been increasingly acquainted since the 1980s with the invertebrate life - especially Lepidoptera - of Wormwood Scrubs, we discovered much that wasn’t in the official natural history records. During the Summer of 2015 upping the ante (or rather whimsically upping the antics) we felt an urgency to bring about some visual enlightenment on the matter as a counterpart to the dominant tendency referencing the amazing bird life notably carried out by Richard Lindo (the Urban Birder). Consequently we appropriated a couple of high steel poles that had been stuck in the ground - no doubt placed there by the council warning of low flying drones – and placed wooden placards on them. Carefully prepared these placards contained meticulous paintings of outsize Dingy Skipper and Brown Argus butterflies which intermittently fly here. Well that, plus footloose and fancy free somewhat poetic jargon! These placards were further accompanied by A4 size pouches pinned-up throughout the Scrubs and like the former totem poles somewhat lyrically celebrating other butterflies to be seen on this varied terrain especially the rare but elusive Brown Hairstreak.... (In parenthesis it should be noted that the only Hairstreak that doesn’t fly on the Scrubs is the Black Hairstreak, though please don’t mention this as it upsets natural history experts and more importantly, developers).
After the recent horrors visited upon us regarding the destruction of the city of Bradford’s amazing “post-industrial gorge” that inconveniently stood in the path of the Aire Valley Regeneration Plan master-minded by the then Deputy PM, Nick Clegg. (For more information on this please refer to Bradford’s Eco-Peterloo webs on the Revolt Against Plenty site. After losing his job and losing interest in the regeneration plan, Clegg got a top job in the USA with Facebook as more mega-bucks rolled-in). In London, we thought, at last we were encountering a more enlightened scene. Alas, as this brief summary testifies, this was not to be the case, mirroring to a remarkable degree the Bradford experience especially during the fateful year of 2013. In short it was to be the “same old /same old” combination of duplicitous eco-officialdom and council bureaucrats behind their syrupy words deviously supporting BIG MONEY developers’ agenda. It’s still a fight but one which Goliath always wins, remorselessly pitted against authentic individuals (sadly it’s still largely only small groups of individuals) possessed by the need to protect and more importantly rejuvenate an ever more depleted nature, hell bent on destruction by a capitalism in suicide mode......
At the same time, it’s also true that there’s today one big difference: 2013 is not the same as 2021. Ecological destruction has over the intervening years massively moved up the agenda of the world’s bureaucracies concomitant with a massive increase in what is technically referred to as “recuperation”. In short, the means by which authority purloins general rank ‘n’ file achievements turning them to their own advantage. Thus our totem pole symbolism has been taken over by Hammersmith & Fulham local Labour party seemingly opposing HS2’s attempted takeover of the Scrubs becoming the emblem of their change.org campaign on the Internet –see below a foto of part of the document. So there we have it: H&F are green, serene and wild!
Yet behind all this, H&F are intent on de-wilding Wormwood Scrubs. Their main concern is to create an arena of successfully asset managed greenwash no doubt replete with lots of ridiculous and expensive ornamental sculptures (like Gunnersbury Park) enticing entrepreneurs to engage in hiring sprees pro-moing say, concerts and outdoor exhibitions. Backing them up, local eco-officialdom has fallen in line suggesting renaming Wormwood Scrubs Common to be replaced with Wormwood Scrubs PARK (our emphasis) as on-line they project their future plans. Inevitably their presentation deploys a language mimicking that of ‘authoritative’ natural science; an academic lingo pose peppered with deliberate obfuscation. They declare in passing that the clearing of invasive bramble from Martin Bell’s Wood has produced a really rich arena for nature but then leave it at that, omitting to mention the essential that it was autonomous ecologically clued-in intervention that made such transformation possible. This means that the reader is automatically going to think all this was thanks to intelligent official initiative; an enlightened intervention by say, council workers and / or wildlife trust brigades with shovels in their hands! Nothing could be further from the truth. But hey, yet again quel surprise! What’s important here is that we must remain as the vandalistic, untutored ignoramuses of yore, or as one of their leaders said to us in 2017, “You are ruining the character of wood” when what we doing was essentially bringing out the character of the wood.
Renaming the Common as a Park is domestication / embourgeois-ification at its worst. In practise it means getting rid of the ‘common’ louts who daily crisscross the Scrubs. It means an open welcome to the new gentrifiers buying apartments in the algorithmically diktat, Legoland new towers in the process of construction around the hub of “Acton City” or beside the new HS2 rail terminal at Old Oak Common. Wilding for officialdom means straight rows upon rows of primulas and pansies; those genetically modified fauvist-like display flowers extracted from primroses and violets This type of trajectory transferred to human beings means clearing away all misfits and not only rough sleepers which is one of the reasons the insect rich site of Mitre Bridge was destroyed. It also means all low-down, trashy dog walkers must be finished off for good. And as for any hip identarian politics well that’s out of the window too as we’ve had enough of that gay fuckin’ in the long grass and /or behind the many bushes; moreover as for those appropriately bedecked Muslim lesbians openly loving each up well tell ‘em to piss-off too.
What follows are various texts relating to the Scrubs adventure: Some with a practical drift regarding further action elsewhere others, more scientifically regarding the minutaie of nature......
Below: Day in the life of insects in Martin Bell's Wood, Wormwood Scrubs Common, July 2020
Brown Argus. The far right photo displays white instead of black discal spots on the forewings. An utter rarity
Six Spot Burnet and Brown Argus Possibly a syrphus-nitens hoverfly Mating Marble Whites
Marbled White plus prominent nest of black ants on a constructed terrill to help Small Blue larvae oedemara mobilis (larvae wood borer)
Six Spot Burnet with Red Cardinal Beetles (aka 'The Bonking Beetle')
Two Small Skippers (The above photos accompanied the following article forwarded to many people)
THE BROWN ARGUS (AND OTHER AMAZING INSECTS) IN MARTIN BELL'S WOOD, WORMWOOD SCRUBS, JULY 2020
BY STUART WISE
There is now a most remarkable colony of Brown Argus in Martin Bell’s Wood – the most important in the country in my opinion. I have simply been astounded by the numbers of the butterfly – never very numerous on any site, the largest only able to muster between 300 to around 700 adults.
I expected to see 3 or 4 at the most, David stumbling across only one first generation specimen in April. Shortly afterwards I was laid up so I could not establish if there were any more, I only ever trusting my own eyesight! The dry hot spell following the deluge in early spring may well have boosted the number of second generation of Brown Argus butterflies in the wood, mating and egg laying generally only taking place when sunny, the weather having a marked effect on this butterfly. So next year's crop may be well down on this year`s given how overcast it has been.
They now easily outnumber the Common Blue in Martin Bell’s Wood – which is unheard of although we must always bear in mind the Common Blue is undergoing an alarming decline. The Brown Argus butterfly was first identified in 1708 by Pettiver and given the name the `Brown Edg`d Argus` – only for the well-known Lepidopterist Harworth in 1808 to eventually call it the Brown Argus having previously been referred to as the `Brown Blue`. The fact that is not mentioned for around 70 years (when the name was changed to the `Brown Blue` in the 1770s) from the date it was first identified suggests Brown Argus numbers fluctuate quite considerably. The butterfly suffered a severe decline throughout the 20th century, habitat destruction and insecticides the main culprits. However at some point the butterfly began to switch its food plant, its gastronomic choice starting to include wild geranium even eating the rather noxious Herb Robert, though it has been established if the caterpillars are to exclusively feed on the plant they invariably perish. If the Brown Argus had remained exclusively a Rock Rose eater (the plant only growing on a chalk / limestone substrate) there’s no chance the butterfly would ever have flourished in the wood. Prior to the criminal destruction of the insect site at Mitre Bridge a number could be found flying there alongside the Common Blue and feeding on the Doves Foot Cranesbill and Cut Leafed Cranesbill. Other than at Mitre Bridge the butterfly could very occasionally be found on the fringe of the narrow strip of woodland running parallel to Scrubs Lane, this the corridor which allowed the butterfly to take up residence in Martin Bell’s Wood. (Both of us have been astonished at the amount of wild geranium (including Meadow Cranesbill), that started to appear once the wood was cleared of the choking bramble). It is not easy to immediately tell the difference between the male and female, sexually dimorphism virtually non-existent. However the orange lunules that fringe the butterfly’s wings tend to be more pronounced in the female and don’t fade towards the apex of the forewing. Also the forewings are more rounded at the termins.
Interestingly the larvae are almost always attended by ants who sometimes swarm over them in order to milk the larvae of a sugary substance that send both red and black ants crazy just to get a sip of it. In fact the frantic scurrying of ants beneath wild geranium plants is often a sign the larvae is close by. And though the pupa is found on the ground, threads of silk still attach the pupa to the food plant, these not strong enough to stop ants from seizing the pupa – and overwintering caterpillars – and carrying them back to their nests, thus saving the pupa and caterpillar from predation by small mammals, birds, wasps et cetera.
And thereby hangs another tale – an example of serendipity at its best. Last year we constructed several mounds – `terrilles` as we like to call them in appreciation of the fact the French left their pit spoil heaps alone to regenerate naturally (and brilliantly) – which we planted with kidney vetch in a bid to save the rare Small Blue butterfly after it was destroyed at Mitre Bridge in 2018. To our surprise they have turned into totally unexpected veggie Black Ant nests – and which may well be a reason why the Brown Argus is so numerous in Martin Bell’s Wood – one mound in particular we reckon to be the founding ancestral nest and chief nursery (a nest can have several queens) and which has spawned other, though less elaborate, nests ( see photo). Great care has been taken in its construction, and I would like to know how deep the nurturing galleries go, the carefully crafted ant earth works visible in the photo, not just permitting access to this ant `drift mine` but also the outer limits of an elaborate ventilation system inviting comparison with those made by termites and which suggests a collective thinking organism (ants are social insects unlike a majority of bees and wasps) the brains of ants occupying an unusually large part of the ant cranium. Remarkably, the base of this nest was under water for several weeks earlier on in the year and which had it been smaller in size, would have drowned the colony. I really must show you this precious addition to the Scrubs fauna and can only hope no one stands on the nest, though thankfully it is a bit out of the way. I intend to construct mounds close to the ancestral nest if only to see how quickly (if at all) they are converted into satellite colonies and whether this results in a notable increase in Brown Argus numbers in the immediate vicinity.
There is an urgent need to extend the Brown Argus colony into the immediate surrounds-AND WHICH CAN BE DONE. The Quiet Way verge for example is covered in Doves Foot Cranesbill and strimming should cease forthwith and only manually scythed once a year in late autumn along with the grassed area of the wood. This is where volunteers come into their own, the practice itself an instance of what is desperately needed if we are to increase a peoples' connectedness with nature. The same goes for the triangle across Scrubs Lane fronting the Pavilion Pub which is likewise covered in Doves Foot Cranesbill. Of course it goes without saying nothing of the sort will ever happen until popular pressure become irresistible and roadside verges treated with the respect they deserve. The fact that some councils around the country have abandoned the strimming of roadside verges does not mean they have at last seen the light- rather they have been persuaded to do so because it is a significant cost saving measure and would immediately revert to scrubbing verges clean of nature were they ever to become flush with cash again.
When I came to review the photos of the Brown Argus I had taken on 31st July 2020 I noticed something remarkable. On the forewings of one of the Brown Argus photos I’d taken to my astonishment I noticed two white discal spots where two black spots should have been. If I had photographed this specimen in Cumbria I would automatically have assumed it was the Northern Brown Argus. Immediately I was transported back to the mid-1990s and to a half forgotten period when we tried to establish if there was an `intergrade` between the Brown Argus and the Northern Brown Argus, concentrating our efforts in the former magnesium limestone quarry of Brockadale (now a nature reserve) just south of Pontefract and where the canal engineer and atypical geologist` Strata` Smith first espied the luminous rock in pouring rain from the top of a stage coach bound for York. It was here my brother David discovered a similar white spotting among a significant colony of the butterfly we had discovered the previous year. To be honest, I cannot now recollect all the details (Butterfly Conservation 'heavyweights` becoming heavily involved in the matter) and whether we were dealing with a mating having taken place between the Brown Argus and the Northern Brown Argus or was a variation of the Brown Argus. (I vividly recall however that we really did establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Northern Brown Argus was becoming double brooded in its southern extremity, I taking a photo of a fresh Northern Brown Argus on Arnside Knott in south Cumbria on my birthday in the late august of 1998). However one thing was for sure: there was nothing like it in southern England. But now it appears there might be. Could we be dealing with a reverse migration, a coming south rather than going north effect, the enigmatic variation from Brockadale having made the journey south over the intervening 25 years, the butterfly well known as quite the traveller?
I know all this sounds like arcane detail of interest only to barmpot lepidopterists. However it does intrigue and has set me thinking once again. Above all it does demonstrate that the wood must not be touched by the ham-fisted fools of Hammersmith and Fulham Council biodiversity and the idiot put in charge of HS2 monies to sponsor a money-grubbing development of the Scrubs, Mr Richard Gill and where revenue not nature will henceforth be king.
"Lettuce from Hell"
"The Impenetrable Thicket"
(&) Giant Haystacks
- which there would be if the invasive vegetation, a product of increased amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, were dealt with properly, the rampaging bramble and creeping thistle threatening the rich diversity of insect life, particularly butterflies. Meanwhile the hand wringing increasingly torturous flesh in official eco circles, their only remedy, predictably, to employ a ‘wildlife sensitive’ landscaping outfit to deal with the problem. Well, they don't exist, the entire 400 year old weight of landscape gardening dead set against the only historical ‘garden’ from which we can still learn something- that of The Commons. Essentially landscape gardening was an admonishment of a nature that was not aesthetic enough for our refined tastes, wild life an uncultured excrescence best bound in books, safely looked at in illustrations or photos or skewered in specimen cabinets in natural history museums. The nightmare for landscape gardeners and their eco controllers is that one day wild life will break free from its prison and rise up against its manacled representation. From way back to the Renaissance, the aim has been to draw a line around -and under - nature, hence the primacy of representational drawing (ending up as engraved book illustrations) in the early stages of European natural history from the mid 15th century onwards. Isolated from a broader context both ecological and social, there would be a moving beyond art and science, careful observation and the depiction of 3D space disguising the remodelling of reality into a barely noticeable image of nature and that was an essential component in transforming natural history specimens into mummified commodities to be traded on mainly European markets. The ornamental curios of mercantilist capitalism would utilise the infrastructure established by trade in agricultural commodities. Eventually an internationally recognised scientific nomenclature would complete the expropriation of nature as a common inheritance, a professionalised knowledge of the natural world paralleling the expansion of European capitalism and an escalating desire to designate, possess and control. Britain, especially England, was recognised as “the garden of the world” long before becoming the workshop of the world -and has easily outlasted it as House and Garden has became the foundation upon which a foundation-less structure of rose tinted dreams and debt-driven capitalism has been built underneath which an economic time bomb ticks.
Commons implies the Common People - those who are prepared to take matters into their own hands and do things for themselves. Amongst official ecos this is increasingly an anathema, the nature bureaucracy and the knee jerk deference it commands, hardening in tandem to the degree official ecology is used by capitalism as green insurance. The technology has massively changed but the general picture remains the same, the geometrical figure in which nature is framed having gone from the medium of print, to the still life/landscape painting hung on the wall of the aspirant bourgeois (and then museum), to the electronic screen and reel nature accessible by all, as nature, from the mid 1990s onwards, becomes a high value sector of the global communications marketplace. Like never before the myth of nature takes over from actual nature, and, rather than acting as a spur to action, does the opposite. Soapy narratives, schmaltzy music and eye candy lull audience into complete passivity and the profoundest complacency. Nature breaks box office records, its existence assured for all time -as a digital memory.
The financialization of ecology mirrors that of the economy at large and, with it, the elevation of the digital finger over that of the opposable thumb. As the hand steadily falls into disuse, the spade the axe the panga are increasingly relegated to the museum- or rather tool catalogue. Only vanished world, neo-Neanderthals now use them, financiers and official ecos at one in their haughty disregard for manual labour. “Dirty our hands? Never! We are the newborn aristocratic negotiators of the rights of nature and heaven forbid that we are ever caught pulling up so much as a stem of creeping thistle”.
The time is not far off when The Scrubs will become a barren, overgrown wasteland. And that is just what the unwearied developers in City Hall want. Yet stopping the invasive tide of creeping thistle and bramble is not yet the Herculean task it shortly will become. On our reckoning a half dozen, sixty- plus coffin dodgers alone would, if equipped with stout gardening gloves and the occasional use of a turf spade, make a huge impression, in a matter of hours, on this prickly lettuce from hell that threatens to sweep all before it. Things will not end there however as clonal creeping thistle is not easily eradicated, the lateral roots able to regenerate from broken pieces. Using a non selective, though sometimes effective, herbicide like glyphosate is out of the question in an ecologically sensitive area like the scrubs. And so, obviously, is grazing .Therefore labour intensive persistence will be required over the years. And yet the mere fact of engaging practically could prove to be an elixir of life and begin to put an end to a lifetime’s habitual passivity, easily the biggest killer of the age. This indeed would be the miracle, not getting rid of the thistle in its entirety -which is not a good idea as, in moderation; it is an invaluable nectar source. Moreover its seeds, like those of the teasel, are much loved by the scrubs flock of Goldfinches and very, very occasionally a Painted Lady caterpillar may be found munching on its leaves, although humans have long given up eating out on this “lettuce from hell” as it was once colloquially called.
There is another worrying aspect to the spread of the Creeping Thistle. And that is its colonization of the less thickly grassed over area where the fescue(s) abound, the Creeping Red Fescue essential at some point during the larval stage of the Marbled White- no matter that the adult loves to nectar on the thistle. Instruction manuals on how best to deal with Creeping Thistle maintain that high grassed areas out-compete the thistle by shading out the yearly shoots. However we have found this is not true of the scrubs and that the densest patches of thistle occur where there is (or has been) a plentiful covering of meadow grass, the ground beneath the thistles, as they multiply, progressively laid bare. This makes it much easier for blackberry seeds that have been dropped by blackbirds, for instance, to germinate. This has only to happen the once and in no time bramble stems are twirling malignly across the rapidly diminishing Scrubs grassland, the arching stalks rooting wherever they touch ground . And so the bunching tufts of threatened fescue face a prickly end on two scores -and it will be noticed the size of the stalks of the creeping thistle where they have begun to encroach on fescue territory, are half that growing on the all but wiped out areas of meadow grass . We must rescue the fescue from certain death - for not only is the Marbled White dependent upon it but the Gatekeeper also feeds on it, although not exclusively, just like the Marbled White. In fact in the mid 1990s the Scrubs may possibly have been the first bit of extensive London `greenery` (then an exposed 7acre assortment of footie pitches with a wild fringe) this butterfly was seen in as it began its still baffling flight into the capital. Climate warming explains its expansion northwards, though not why the butterfly was so late in entering London, even though it had ringed the capital for many decades previously. (The increased reluctance to use herbicides and pesticides in urban areas must form part of the explanation- despite the fact Network Rail shows no such scruple, the Gatekeeper and Brown Hairstreak having nonetheless possibly followed the untidy bank sides of rail corridors before alighting at the Scrubs)
And now to the Bramble known in ancient cronj as the “impenetrable thicket”. Again manual methods are the most effective and require far more than the fussy use of dainty nail scissors or even, Maggie Thatcher chic, the garden secateurs used for pruning the roses, whilst Dennis mows the lawn in the background, lawn care a stereotypic male preoccupation. (A well kept lawn also signified a stable, patriotic, family life and that you don't drink, take drugs, go on strike and think wild thoughts, a suburban fabrication basic to the neo liberal agenda). Rampaging bramble is antithetical to the growing domestication of nature summed up by the lawn as a sort of exterior carpet -a further reason why its very presence overwhelms, rooting suburbia to the spot. Bramble is a noted beneficiary of an increase in ambient CO2 (“the CO2 fertilization”), its dense arching stems removing many a time-honoured path from OS maps over the course of a couple of summers. We are now commonly seeing branches with a thickness of around 18m and that take root from node tips wherever it touches the ground. It now threatens to smother motorway and railway embankments in their entirety (Lester’s Embankment a case in point) such that we wish for the return of the fires ignited by live coals to do the job for us and which was a boon to flowers and insects -especially if there was a substrata of limestone chippings- if not mammals and birds so much. Bramble pretty much sterilizes the ground beneath it- so don't be conned for one moment by a fool`s clearance. Within weeks it will be colonized not by grass (which is what's required on the scrubs) but willow herb, dock, hogweed etc- and a fresh growth of suckering bramble. Even snipping the stems with industrial shears below the surface of the ground is not enough as bramble can regenerate from well below ground level. There`s nothing for it but to go the whole hog- and dig up the roots! It is possible the new ultra herbicides may be effective. But don't bet on it, the reassuring promo of a pricey chemical seeming to invalidate the need for a DIY hands-on solution taking place largely outside the sphere of the circulation of commodities...and which , on that account, must be completely discouraged . Once cleared of bramble, bang down a good covering of species rich grass seed, cross your fingers and -hope.
The above looks like a declaration of war upon the bramble- but bramble isn't the plant it used to be- though it has to be said the increase in wild fruit foragers are helping to keep the bramble in check, but only up to a point, the bramble easily gaining the upper hand and putting masses of blackberries beyond the reach of all but blackbirds. We wish to restore the honour due to bramble and return this internationally renowned, mostly free, culinary staple to being the revered fruiting bush we knew as children. And science has only added to its treasure chest of folk properties, its photochemical components toxic to cancer cells. One final point: the shallow bramble flower perfectly suits the Small Heath’s short proboscis, the butterfly, which was present on the scrubs even prior to the ‘wilding’, having suffered a catastrophic 62% decline over the last 30 years.
These are just a couple of suggestions - if disaster is to be averted. And don't expect cash strapped Hammersmith and Fulham council to do anything about this rapidly deteriorating situation and that provides us with a golden opportunity to do something about it ourselves and thus begin to assert collective ownership over the Scrubs. However such is the prevailing passivity, we reckon nothing will be done, death preferable to the dishonour of doing something that is at once practically useful regarding nature conservation. It requires preparedness to cock a snook at authority and as the greenwash perpetrated by official ecology is the bar against which the success or failure of all other ideologies are now judged, to do something that undermines that authority is to risk becoming the target of unrelenting slurs, lies, misrepresentations -you name it. If you don't believe us just try it- and be prepared for a shock.
WRITTEN BY: The Motherfuckers of Social Housing and Nature
BELOW: Letter to Dr wooo in Australia. Spring 2020.
Explaining things generally we kinda want to be instrumental in creating genuine, autonomous hand-on groups of individuals ever ready to intervene in and against the deadly, mainly urban, landscape where everybody is incarcerated and the final nail in the coffin defines a false commodity-fetishized way of living. For sure this is a bit pie--in-the-sky as people today, especially the young, are utterly nailed to the economic deck hardly able to experiment with anything. It obviously would be easier if we had universal basic income worldwide – and allowing more than a modicum of freedom - but there’s little prospect of that and if it did happen will it be so shaped as to clearly point to a transitional bridge inaugurating the end of wage slavery and money? Fat chance!
As things stand at the moment, we hope these informal, flowing, groupuscules would be made up of people willing to learn, capable of listening, co-operative and anti-narcissistic in practise, ever ready for experimenting with nature, plus possessing a great sense of humility regarding daily failures as well as the occasional splendid successes..... but (an important but) to be capable of mad acts off their own back without needing to discuss with any wise old fools! They’ve essentially gotta be capable of sheer hard, fekking work. It means acquiring real backbone to relentlessly carry-on against all the odds as ecological achievement does not come easily considering the odds stacked against us. Also you just gotta learn and learn on the job practically and theoretically which means knowing what a fritillary butterfly eats as well as say, reading Robert Kurz on the limits of value and the overthrow of capitalism.
Are the young members of Extinction Rebellion up to the task? Unfortunately they really don’t like day in day out hard physical graft, so give us out of work artisanal builders any day who are keen to genuinely latch-on to nature, even though knowing little about nature. Am afraid XR has a helluva long way to go in this direction particularly since the organisation is fettered by something like a top down academic hierarchy with obedient students listening faithfully to the words of mildly rebellious lecturers, etc. It’s hardly a revolutionary revolt against the university. On the other hand XR is increasingly leaky courting anarchist-like conceptions of affinity groups and independent initiatives though in a confused way. Moreover they’ve even stopped taking down our no holds barred texts on their various Facebook pages, even liking some! Perhaps young XR members could be heading in the direction of autonomous eco intervention, digging, clearing, planting, etc, everywhere and in the process gaining hands-on practical knowledge regarding all kinds of particularities in multi-faceted locations each with different requirements. Within a few years landscapes could be transformed everywhere now that what was once called “the countryside” has become a dead space, more to do with estate agents valuations than fecund greenery. XR breakaways like Burning Pink are occurring; and the latest involves raids on supermarkets then giving the food away for free. These acts are all very encouraging.
Moreover, this proposed activity cannot be included within the baneful hierarchical perspectives of nature reserves which councils and all eco groups revere. Nature reserves remove people except as passive observers and/or recorders walking down pre-ordained pathways. Sadly they are a nothing but a form of tourist venue amounting to sweet FA replete with faux eco cafes (to be sure without a McDonalds in sight) though kitted out with banal knickknacks and what have you for sale; in short venues which are the culmination of a basically meaningless afternoon’s outing in the ubiquitous anti-eco car. No, no, no. For sure we must place this conundrum within broader perspectives indicative of the moment when nature in its entirety along with most aspects of everyday life has become super-monetised reflecting the dispersal and collapse of value neurotically twisted into avalanches of fiat currency as if money is itself akin to an endangered species which, in reality it is. It is as if money has historically reached up into a lone super-size pinnacle with ultra shaky foundations as the capitalist mode of destruction founders on its own (now impossible) contradictions surviving on steroid fixes (i.e. quantitative easing plus new derivatives invented almost daily) as its life span is stretched to breaking point The only point of contention is will this be a quick death or a long slow, contradictory agonising death? Alas it seems it will be the latter!!! And the response to Covid-19 is both Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism and a Capitalist Disaster combined. If it’s the latter that becomes preponderant it just might be the tipping point heading towards an anti-statist total social revolution.
Although people fleetingly dive in and out of our practical eco experiments there is little constant follow through. This is compensated somewhat by our passion and on the spot, continual face to face explanations - with shovels and Canterbury hoes /axes in our hands - to all and sundry passing by who are keen to talk. This wilding activity really does communicate big time and then news travels rapidly by word of mouth. Also the eco Diaspora turn up and they are of the same persuasion even as the top down, party-line official ecos generally come down on us like a ton of bricks. Then as time rolls by we really do get amazing results as bio-diversity always, but always, massively increases further bio-diversity. However a word of caution: doing it in Quick Time is today’s capitalist essence and ours is not a regime of pop-up gaudy flower beds laid out like rows of supermarket shelves put together within 24 hours and which councils are so adept at manufacturing!
In a way it could be said that Debord’s comment, “a moment of life that has grown old cannot be revived through bright colours” we have applied to faux nature, or rather ubiquitous horticulture giving this profound insight a much greater cutting edge having originally pertained to Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, etc., especially Henri Matisse. Once “recovered through transfer” (to slightly amend Marx) this insight becomes even more explosive when applied to the parking and garlanding of nature especially regarding the past horrific 70 year plus era of town and country planning regimes imposed everywhere over the planet. We first referenced this ‘recovery’ by coining the phrase “Industrial fauvism” regarding the plethora of cordoned-off, marooned flower beds which really took off from the 1980s onwards especially in those northern cities in Britain transitioning from smoke-stack industries to the post industrial. In short, a ‘nature’ devoid of all essential amoral, fecund impulse but one which all official green groups were to tacitly endorse. No wonder recently during the Covid-19 lockdown on a painted-up clapped-out bird box we stencilled-up the old mantra: “ART IS DEAD. DO NOT CONSUME ITS CORPSE”. (The red daubs were meant to mimic the Covid-19 virus).
In the meantime people must, must, must try to live in new imaginative reconstructions of dialectical becoming where nature is given priority. At the present moment people thankfully do inhabit landscapes of contempt but they are designated and stereotyped as the homeless, or as immigrants, or mad outcasts and are hunted down by the bullies of officialdom usually encouraged by bio-diversity officers on high salaries who want get rid of such unwanted specimens of humanity only to then surreptitiously welcome developers in through the back door. The role of the bio-diversity official is in any case to further the state’s greenwash agenda and they are the sworn enemy of authentic eco intervention. For sure, the MSM see the outcast as damaged goods but who isn’t damaged in today’s outrageously reactionary society based on an augmented commodity fetishism gone apeshit attempting to compensate for a slowly disappearing mass of value spread out over a vast array of manufactured goods strangling the very lungs of the planet and a thesis Anselm Jappe has worked on over the last 15 years or so (c/f his The Writing on the Wall). In short, the incarnation of suicide capitalism!
Initially admiring the anarchic drive and communal spirit behind guerrilla gardening we also increasingly noted that practitioners lacked essential knowledge of the natural sciences especially knowledge related to spreading bio-diversity in specific situations. Unfortunately most guerrilla gardening like the park and lawn fauvism it seemingly combats, is nothing more than an ersatz display that doesn’t get to grips combating the horrors of the sixth extinction practised on a day to day level everywhere. This extinction is UNMENTIONED AND IGNORED. In that sense it’s no different to the decorative display of graffiti and tags –that end of art gallery moment - that wasn’t to be the end of the gallery but rather its watered down extension and which today meaninglessly adorns walls everywhere containing hardly an ounce of genuine subversion
Really I’d like to see most abandoned areas taken over and in the process lose their asset management orientation cum valuation. Most road and rail verges should also be taken over but not done via the baneful recuperative shit that local councils engage in conning all poorly aware on-lookers. Something, say, on the lines of Class War’s takeover of a council dump on their Upper Norwood Tourist Trail in South London, now renamed The Sensible Garden (after the local punk rocker Capt. Sensible). It’s at least a beginning even if the initial re-wilding isn’t clued-in relying more on garden centre horticultural cut-price rejects than genuine, potentially interactive vegetation that encourages organic bio-diversity. More generally this is the on-going problem with guerrilla gardening everywhere; it just isn’t sufficiently clued-in ecologically. Still it’s a start. Moving on from this we need to try and create a simple base-up mass movement mirroring –if you like - the 3 cord skiffle / punk of yesteryear only with 3 plants substituting for guitars and ukuleles; say a 3 cord nature punk bag full of birds foot trefoil, red clover, creeping red fescue grass and / or kidney vetch! (In parenthesis seeing in the late 1960s we gave Malcolm McLaren most of the insights and snappy smart-arsed aggression he was to utilise in the creation of the Sex Pistols why shouldn’t a similar process be transposed onto nature)? In short we create a new basic environment of essential music to the soul (i.e. via WEEDS) helping stop Insectageddon in its tracks as we ruthlessly take over entire eviscerated mower-mad parks and so-called recreational areas plus every nook and cranny going. This action is not about pretty images and the so called miserable art aesthetics fall out onto nature but its negation and hoped for, dialectical supercession. Again and most importantly we don’t ask if we can do this. We take! And shit will we put authorities backs up all over….You bet. And the ensuing shock horror publicity could turn-out to be really helpful in getting the message out there! Down with London councils! Occupy all the dead London parks and rewild them not as display venues but as genuine spaces of ever-evolving rich bio-diversity! The same goes for all railway embankments and every other obvious space.
Moreover, we kinda insist that people must try constantly to hang out in and among these arenas of rejuvenated nature just like the Zadistas in France. Obviously such living is experimental and quite outside architectural concepts and that’s the great thing about it. Most of the “landscapes of contempt” we’ve been involved with have involved a fair amount of rough sleepers who we have always gotten on with making no attempt to move them on, unlike the brutal evictions the official green rackets resort to forever bringing in the police. Indeed with ourselves physical work on the land coincide with work we engage with on abandoned buildings to house the homeless often giving them rudimentary training in various building trades. The fecund artesian well of Martin Bell’s Wood on Wormwood Scrubs is a prime example and is also an arena whereby East Europeans, Africans, Asians, South Americans, etc., sleep over for a while and we often have ultra-memorable conversations with them. Nearby, one guy even pitched his bed next to the rare Small Blue butterfly enclave of Mitre Bridge. Did it harm the butterfly? No, not really. But the response of local official greenwashers headed by the chief bio-diversity officer was to then hand over inner London’s finest insect site of Mitre Bridge to canteen facility as they wanted rid of rough sleepers at all cost. Eco-side followed by ecocide.
In reality creating autonomous eco work brigades would be a new endeavour in these islands where any trace of wilderness has long since been taken out or drastically modified so in that sense it’s a quest different to the clued-in ZAD experience in France where continuity with the radical history of the last fifty years is plainly obvious. Britain contains more natural history societies than probably any other country in the world, yet all without exception are bankrupt and useless, and nowadays incapable of experiencing that oneness with nature heralded by romanticism 200 hundred years ago and long forgotten. We are at degree zero and the flight of Minerva’s owl is now long overdue.