Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The countryside - do not enter on pain of death!

Of course there are some dangers in the countryside which we all need to be aware of, without sensationalising them. Common sense is all that is needed for a pleasant and safe time in the fresh air.

Oh Matt Rudd, Matt Rudd – surely you should be a journalist working on a trashy tabloid like the Sunday People rather than a supposedly, more serious broadsheet such as the Sunday Times? Your headline in last weekend’s paper read “Beware a burning summer as hogweed monster goes viral”.

But that is only the start! You go on by starting your article “Run for your lives. The flesh eating triffids are coming. Experts say this is the summer when giant hogweed goes viral”. Are you quite sure these so called experts said this – or have you woven in a large helping of journalistic flair here?

I know you are only trying to flog a few more papers, but there is a serious point to my criticism in that, on the one hand we are trying to encourage children (and their parents!) to turn off their computers and televisions and go out and explore the delights of the countryside this summer, while on the other hand you are frightening the pants off of them all!

Of course you should write about this plant and inform people of the possible dangers should they handle it – but “flesh eating triffids” – oh please!  Why is it that journalists seem incapable nowadays of writing a report on a subject just as it is, without sensationalising the facts and transforming it into some sort of Doctor Who script?

A very quick trawl through the internet, looking at the media topics covered in the recent past, would make you feel damned lucky if you have managed to return home unscathed, indeed alive, from even the shortest of saunters in this treacherous land we inhabit!

Snorting bulls, (they are ALWAYS snorting), marauding wild boar, poisonous adders, rutting stags fueled with testosterone, false black widow spiders, ticks and Lyme’s disease are all likely to be encountered, while an article from America informs us that the “risk of death — which counts both violent crime and accidents — is more than 20% higher in the countryside than it is in large urban areas”. This American experience may of course be true.

I found myself wondering if things might be even worse here in the UK, because you have all been warned that you are quite likely to bump into an irate, red faced farmer with his pitch fork or a shotgun swinging keeper, both of whom may or may not let you escape the rigged up temporary gallows, but only if you apologise profusely and grovel enough.

This sort of journalism has to stop.

I know many, many farmers who spend an inordinate amount of time arranging “Open Farm Sunday” and others who invite local folk onto the farm at lambing time, while many keepers are involved with educational walks, showing people the ways of the countryside. My local hunt – the Hampshire hunt - is right now advertising their “open day”, hoping to demonstrate and inform anyone who has the gumption to make up their own mind on the ways of hunting.

Meanwhile we are entering the countryside show period, from the Game fair through to the local ploughing match, where many, many country folk will give up their time to chat to anyone who is interested about their work and life out in the sticks.

I have quite often raised the issue on this blog of “Yokels versus Townies” – it is a two way problem of course – and my concerns that the gap between the two seems to be ever widening. However, I am increasingly seeing many who live within the countryside doing their bit in an attempt to close that gap, which is so vital if we are to retain many of the traditional customs and a way of life which many of us still enjoy.

So, to journalists from all parts of the media – a plea. Report on anything you like – of course – but please cut out this ridiculous sensationalism. You have an important role to play in the width of this social gap too. 



  1. Good piece, in general. A shame, though, that you have to imply that anyone who disapproves of fox-hunting must be misinformed or lack "gumption".

  2. Lyme disease, not Lyme's! Yet another common journalistic error!

  3. Dave - thanks for raising this point - I apologise that it came across like that - not what I meant to imply at all! Of course people will come down on which ever side they believe is correct on an topic such as hunting - it is just good when folk have bothered to find out the facts from both sides and base their decision on that.
    Ando - spelling also noted!!