When we really did live in a green and pleasant land ecologically that is, it was because there were no polluting motor vehicles. There was heavy industry but not on the scale we have come to know across the world today. At the centre of life was the humble horse. So much so that so many stories and poems were written about the creature making it the subject of myth and legend. The horse has been there through war and peace. It was the chosen mode of transport of the great. It carved out the landscapes we love so much today turning wasteland into fertile farmland. Have we forgotten how important the animal was and still is? Have those so keen on the green revolution sidelined the horse as a result of their love affair with the bike?
I had a love affair with the outdoors and bicycles throughout my life. From receiving my first bike as a child I just had to have a bike around so that I could get out on the road and feel free and of course exert all that energy I had as a young man. Often cycling 70 miles a day on a bike four or five times the weight of the bicycles today and using the bike to travel to and from work when there really was no consideration for cyclists on the road. I was an avid fan of cycle racing with my heroes being Pedro Delgado, Stephen Roche, Miguel Indurain and Jeannie Longo. I can understand the love affair and the need to improve conditions for cycling. The BBC ran an interesting item on how you build a nation of cyclists. While working for a local newspaper I used to take my folding bicycle out and gather news. I also used it to promote the newspaper. Perhaps I was a Renaissance man. The BBC just launched the Bike Bureau for green broadcasting. Perhaps politicians will be equipped with similar in order to conduct their business cutting back on the cost of buildings and expenses and of course practicing what they preach.
I grew up around agriculture spending a lot of time on a local farm. There were horses in the fields around the estate where I lived. I enjoyed riding as and when I could. Some of my family also owned horses and have done well in breeding them and showing them. I attend the Royal Welsh Show most years and horses always take centre stage there.
I spent some time at Ffoslas following the official opening photographing the races. There really is something incredible about being so close to this powerful beast.
In recent days I employed the services of the Urban Forestry Horseman. Aaron brought along his horse Scooby to help clear our one acre paddock, which had become completely overgrown with brambles and blackthorn. It was an urban jungle. Bordered by the Nant Gochen river. We were keen to conduct the work in a low impact manner in order that no pollution entered the river. Despite this I witnessed pollution from other sources coming down the river. The brown sludge from slurry and mud mixed with diesel and oil from clear felling of forestry land. The river has no protection until something drastic happens. Then we see our politicians surrounded by agencies making all the right noises making knee jerk reactions and commissioning more expensive research until the next time.
Faced with the huge task of trying to restore this land sensitively to ensure the flora and fauna were looked after I had invited the Urban Horseman in to see what he could do. Within moments of coming through our large side doors Scooby had begun to munch on the overgrown grass. No tractor wheels squashing down the soil and creating mud. No leaking oil or diesel and no noise apart from the occasional snort from Scooby.
Some land management practices such as cultivating and logging can be efficiently performed with horses. In agriculture, less fossil fuel is used and increased environmental conservation occurs over time with the use of draft animals such as horses. Logging with horses can result in reduced damage to soil structure and less damage to trees due to more selective logging.
As a journalist I get sent press release after press release on climate change. Local and national government policy. Tree planting, cycling initiatives, rewilding, green energy, solar, wind, heat source pumps, electric charging points and more. Hardly ever do I receive anything regarding an initiative or research paper stating the value of the horse in reducing our carbon footprint or helping in the battle to slow down climate change.
As Aaron and his family worked the land on foot, using hand tools for the most part, weaving hedges, reusing any materials found or cut on the land. I was inspired and I wanted to share this. This is where politicians should have come for one of their photo ops or sent one of their highly paid researchers to sit and observe. The bank of researchers ever ready to concoct a report, which becomes a directive and a set of words that fall off the lips of a finely coiffured politician read from a sheet of A4, unconvincingly.
Welsh Government has pledged an extra £32m for tree planting. Millions of pounds have been invested in cycling in Wales but Aaron and his family who live in a lorry off grid where they can. It is a hand to mouth existence for which they receive no help yet this small family live an exemplar eco friendly life.
I don’t see the same excitement or investment in making the environment safer for horses. Perhaps this is why we just don’t see as many on our roads any more. When Scooby arrived people all around came out to have a look. When he bathed in the river people came out with their children to take photos of this wonderful scene.
The love affair with the bicycle has never been greater. There are still those that loathe the bicycle riders, the three or four abreast on the main roads. The law has changed and cyclists have a greater protection on the road. How I wish it were so when I was cycling on the busy roads where lorry and car drivers took pleasure in seeing how close they could get to my shaved legs and how high I jumped when they honked their horn at my rear.
I would like to see much of the same energy and resources targeted at the equestrian society. I would like to see the horse and horsemen and women, especially those with working horses like Aaron given incentives, funding and help to pursue this very noble way of life. Aaron tells me the opposite happens. He lives on next to nothing getting water wherever he can, bathing in a cast iron bath at the rear of the truck, freezing in winter, harassed because of the way he and his family look and the lifestyle they lead. Instead of celebrating his green credentials and his singular but huge contribution to addressing climate change he gets persecuted, moved on, victimised and ignored by those who say they are serious about Climate Change. I am sure if Greta Thunberg had been on a horse on her pilgrimage as a figurehead for climate change activists the horse would by now be making the front pages of newspapers and engaging news item on the BBC.
Like Captain Mainwaring but without the loveable persona we have politicians telling us what we should do and how we should do it complete with selfies demonstrating how they have virtuously and self righteously followed their own advice albeit for a Twitter post or Tik Tok video before resorting to type and mounting not the noble horse but the out of control gravy train calling at Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed.