In some respects, I’m very fortunate in where I live, although I’m in the middle of the Cheshire plain with hardly a hill for miles around, I have a load of local dog walks on my doorstep. Two minutes walk from my house and I can be walking along the Weaver Navigation – a sort of half river half canal hybrid waterway that snakes through Cheshire. Surrounding this waterway is the Weaver Parkway, an extensive series of footpaths and bridleways that provide a variety of walking environments from river side paths, country paths through farmland and shaded woodland walks.
In other respects I hate where I live. Winsford was a small town located between Chester and Northwich, notable only for its rock salt mine – the only one left in the country – we provide the country with the grit to spread on its icy roads. It was small that is, until it became an overspill for Liverpool and Manchester. Several huge council estates were built in the 60’s and the town grew rapidly. In recent years a number of private housing developments have been added and we live in one of these. My wife has lived in Winsford for nearly 40 years and I’ve lived here since we met, so we sort of live here by default rather than choice, although the relatively low house prices were something of an incentive when we came to buy a house.
Once you get out of the new-build estates, however, Winsford is a dirty, rather seedy, little bit run-down sort of town, with the sort of crime and unemployment levels that are associated with towns with large council estates. I know, I’m wandering a bit here, but I’m trying to set the rest of this entry in some context.
My daily 3 mile(ish) dog walk takes me down a small path at the end of our street, onto an access road and down to the Salt Mine by the Weaver. I call the access road “Dog Shit alley”, as it’s littered with small brown curly landmines and in the summer the smell is awful. I’ve always been lucky with Meg, she won’t shit anywhere other than the back garden, but other dogs aren’t so considerate.
Once I reach the Weaver I follow the river, often passing herons, cormorants, swans, coots and mallards and other riverside wildlife. In the summer there are hundreds of frogs on the paths and I often see fish jumping in the wider sections. I find it hard to appreciate these sights though, as I have to spend much of my time watching where I put my feet. The paths along the river are heavily used by dog walkers and the dog shit is rife!
The river walk takes me almost into the town centre, before doubling back, up a small rise to a car park, a pub and another new-build estate which connects to my estate and leads me home. The closer the walk gets to the town, the worse the dog shit becomes and the other major eyesore on the walk, the litter, becomes denser and denser.
The litter on the early part of the walk is mainly tissues, the occasional chocolate bar wrapper or crisp packet, and not very much of it either. As you get closer to town and the major population centres, the litter becomes pizza boxes and McDonalds cartons, thousands and thousands of beer bottle tops, beer cans and plastic supermarket bags. People seem to use the parkway at night for outdoor parties, as I often find new sites of 10-20 beer cans and several different fast food containers all scattered around a bench. Part of the problem I think is that there are no litter bins located by these benches, but that’s still no excuse.
So, the council tried to do something about this. They now have regular countryside ranger patrols along the length of the river and surrounding paths, I often see him driving along! Yes, he drives a Land Rover, churning up the paths and the verges on either side, forcing people off to either side. They have also put up dog fouling signs (£1000 max fine), enforced by the warden to try and reduce the little curly landmine problem. The result is of course that people now carry little plastic bags with them, so that when Rover takes a shit on the path, the owner picks it up using the inside-out bag trick, especially if they are in sight of other people.
This unfortunately has led to my new pet hate – worse than my loathing of dog shit and litter!! Many of the trees on my daily walk are now festooned with little bags of dog shit! People will only walk so far with a bag of dog shit in their hand, as soon as the coast is clear they jettison their little load by hanging it on a handy branch by the path, or possibly by throwing it as far as they can into the undergrowth, where it inevitably gets caught by branches.
This morning I counted 53 bags of shit along my 3 mile section, 53 bags which will never decompose in my life time and which, unless removed by the council, will still be hanging there next year. Joined presumably by another couple of hundred.
Unwittingly, the council have caused this problem. By enforcing the dog fouling by-laws they have turned a bad problem into something much worse. At least dog shit left on a path will “decompose” over time. It will get washed by the rain, removed by insects, carried away on the feet of walkers, not so the little plastic cocoons the shit is now protected by.
You have to wonder what sort of person chooses to decorate his daily walk with little bags of shit, which he will see every day as he walks past the same spot. These are the sort of people the word “scrote” was devised for.